The Spencers return to Andalusia

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Wanna see a magic trick?”

No, it’s not a trick question – it’s the opening line for the three upcoming appearances by famed husband and wife illusionists, The Spencers.

This will be the couple’s third appearance in Andalusia, but it won’t be just a traditional performance as in year’s past. This year, the Spencers will be bringing their award-winning and medically-accepted therapeutic techniques to therapists and educators alike.

And, they end their stay as the opening act for this year’s Covington Arts Council’s season on Saturday.

CAC Director Paula Harr said Tuesday the Spencers bring a unique talent to the area.

“They are nothing like you’ve ever seen,” Harr said. “In addition to his stellar entertainment career, Kevin is also an assistant professor at the University of Alabama in Birmingham in the occupational therapy department.  He teaches future healthcare professional on the therapeutic use of simple magic tricks in physical and psychosocial rehabilitation.”

It’s those skills that will be highlighted in two workshops on Thursday. Spencer’s magic trick-based work has been featured in the Journal of the American Medical Association, HEALTH magazine and The Washington Post.  Additionally, the concepts of “magic therapy” have been approved by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) and are being used in more than 2,000 facilities in 30 countries.

Spencer’s research on the educational benefits of integrating magic tricks into the classroom for students with autism spectrum disorders and developmental disabilities (called the Hocus Focus project) has been published in the Journal of the International Association of Special Education and the Journal of the International Society for Teacher Education. It’s those concepts that local physical and occupational therapists will get introduced to at a 10 a.m. workshop. The class can be used for professional continuing education credits.

“What I’ll be doing is teaching therapists simple magic tricks they can use as part of a patient’s treatment,” Spencer said. “Instead of taking a piece of tubing and getting their client to stretch it for strength. They can use a trick, like tying it into a knot, making it fun.

“Think about it this way if you were a therapist,” he said. “Would you rather say watch me put these pegs in a board or let me show you a magic trick?”

Local educators and parents of special needs children are invited to a free 3:30 p.m. workshop using similar techniques.

This is where Spencer said his heart is – with children.

“These days there are so many inclusive classrooms,” he said. “And for me, it’s magic trick intergration. For teachers, instead of getting up and using a lecturing style of teaching, we give them an option to teach students a magic trick that can align with common core or national standards in math, science and language arts.

“For example, if they’re doing fractions or physics, you can take two paper clips, place them on a folded dollar bill, and when you unfold the bill, the paper clips leap in the air and link together,” he said. “Truly. And what kid doesn’t love magic?”

Spencer said the tricks also work to help children on autism spectrum work on fine gross motor skills, cognitive skills, organization and “all of the skills they struggle with.”

“And those skills are the same for a typically developing child in elementary school,” he said. “And by using those skills, students have a concrete way of applying the lessons and skills learned inside the classroom.”

Both workshops will be held on the Andalusia LBWCC campus.

Harr asked that participants call 334-300-2783 to reserve a seat. Cost is $50 for the professional workshop, while the educator/parent workshop is free.

The Spencers will take to the LBWCC Dixon Center on Sat., Oct. 12. Tickets are

Season tickets for the CAC’s four performances are $50 each. Individual performance tickets are $15 in advance; $18 at the door and $10 for students.

“Their ‘Theater of Illusion’ show is described as a stark contrast to the traditional magic show, and the couple as ‘modern day Houdinis,’” Harr said. “This couple brings their props in a 65-foot customized truck and trailer. It’s not a rabbit being pulled out of a hat show. These people are simply amazing.”