Magic and Illusion are wonderful forms of entertainment. But several wonderful people use magic in a much more powerful ways, ways that actually have changed people’s lives. In the coming months, we plan to share some unique ways that magic has been used. I believe there is no better place to start than with my friend, Kevin Spencer, who started ‘Hocus Focus’ to help those with severe brain injuries as well as those with severe cases of Autism. Here in his own words, is Kevin’s story:
“Almost every little boy dreams of becoming a magician. I was one of the lucky ones who saw that dream become a reality. For more than 30 years, I have enjoyed an amazing career traveling the world with one of the most successful touring illusion productions in the performing arts arena. I’ve had the privilege of appearing in some of the most spectacular and prestigious venues throughout the U.S. and in 28 countries on 6 continents.
I never believed I could achieve greater satisfaction than traveling the globe performing magic. But as it turns out, I was wrong.
Through my own personal tragedy and, more recently, my association with some extraordinary individuals, I’ve learned that mastering even the simplest magic trick can be one of the most satisfying and therapeutic activities one can do. I’ve long been a believer in the power of the arts to positively impact the quality of people’s lives. But I’ve come to appreciate the depth of the art of magic to make a difference in the ways we live, learn, work and heal.
That conviction was confirmed early in my magic career when I was involved in a bad accident. The car I was driving was crushed by a tractor-trailer. I woke up in neurological intensive care with a closed brain injury and a lower spinal cord injury. I spent the next several months in rehabilitation working hard to regain the skills I had lost as a result of that accident. The process was long, frustrating and often very boring. Many times, I found it difficult to maintain the motivation that was necessary to reach some of those important therapeutic goals. Fortunately, I had great therapists who encouraged me and I managed a full recovery. But I had to ask myself, “Isn’t there a better way to do this?”
I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. As a result of that experience, I collaborated with a number of therapists to develop a treatment program that uses simple magic tricks as a fun and motivating way for patients to reach therapeutic goals and improve cognitive and motor skills. I developed a specific protocol of magic tricks and have been working closely with academic and medical professionals around the world to underpin this work with robust scientific research.
Fieldwork on magic trick integration and traumatic brain injury won first poster prize at the Canadian Association of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Meeting in Toronto (2007). Research using magic tricks as an intervention with mental health diagnosis won first poster prize at the International Mental Health Conference in Hong Kong; and research by Dr. Dido Green on the use of magic tricks as a themed approach to hand-arm bimanual intensive therapy for children with hemiplegia won first poster prize at the European Academy of Childhood Disabilities Conference and was published in Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology. We have published papers in the Journals of Hand Therapy, International Association of Special Education, and International Society for Teacher Education Research. The program has been featured in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and numerous healthcare related publications. I have been interviewed on international news programs including Voice of America, NPR’s All Things Considered, American Voices with Senator Bill Bradley (Sirius/XM Radio), Good Morning Singapore, The CBS Early Show, Saba Tumer show in Istanbul, Fox & Friends, and dozens of local/regional news broadcasts.
Based on a tremendous amount of research, The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) has endorsed the use of magic tricks as an authentic method of achieving therapeutic goals. Today, the concepts of the Healing of Magic are being used in more than 2,000 hospitals and rehab centers in over 30 countries around the world.
In 2009, I founded Hocus Focus, Inc. – a nonprofit corporation with a mission to empower individuals with abilities different than my own by working to create a global environment where their inherent human capacity for maximum potential can be achieved and bringing about inclusive communities where everyone experiences an authentic sense of belonging and no one – for any reason – is relegated to the margins.
In 2015, I retired my illusion show to focus exclusively on the work of Hocus Focus. The challenges can be immense but the successes are extraordinary. This work has changed me as an artist but it has also transformed me as a human being, reinforcing my belief in the power of the arts to impact lives in ways that reach beyond the stage. I never thought it possible to have a second career that I loved more than my first.”