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Magician who uses skills to help children with autism coming to Arts Center

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Spencer devotes his time and talent to using the power of the arts to provide access and opportunity to individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

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Educator and artist Kevin Spencer will take the stage for Hocus Focus at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center at 2 p.m. on October 13, but not before he shares his insight with students at Northwest Florida State College and the community.

Spencer devotes his time and talent to using the power of the arts to provide access and opportunity to individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Spencer is widely considered the leading authority on the educational and therapeutic benefits of arts-based programs in education and rehabilitation.

“As soon as I met Kevin, I knew I wanted to host him at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center,” said Jeanette Shires, Director of the Mattie Kelly Arts Center. “The more we talked I realized that he wouldn’t only be a great performer, but he’d also be a huge asset in championing the arts within our community.”

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Spencer will host sessions with NWF State’s nursing, public safety, and education students to assist them in recognizing and dealing with children with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

NWF education students taking Advanced Instructional Strategy will learn interactive approaches in creating an inclusive environment. In another class Spencer is hosting with education students, he will teach a “magic trick approach” to teaching English as a second language, which helps in social initiation and interaction.

The nursing students at NWF will also spend time with Spencer where he will emphasize the importance of a holistic approach on health.

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“Health students are some of my favorite students to work with,” Spencer said. “They often focus on the scientific part of their learning and often forget how art can help them succeed as well.”

Spencer plans to share practical guidance with the students that will broaden their perspective on their future career, and will teach them how to connect with their patients making them feel comfortable an optimistic about the road to recovery.

Spencer will also help NWF’s public safety students by teaching them how to recognize characteristics of autism and other developmental disabilities, and giving them the knowledge and tools to properly deal with those people when the situation arises.

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But that’s not all. Along with helping NWF State students, the Mattie Kelly Arts Center also extended the invitation to community organizations that will benefit from Spencer’s expertise.

Spencer will spend time with students at both the Emerald Coast Autism Center and the Autism Spectrum of the Emerald Coast, where he will use magic tricks to observe students’ levels of awareness and perception, engage curiosity and even teach tricks to students who are up to the task.

Silver Sands Elementary School will also receive a visit from Kevin Spencer where he will show and teach students magic tricks. In the school’s inclusive classroom environment, Spencer’s magic tricks help all students sharpen their motor skills, including processing and sequencing.

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In the days leading up to Hocus Focus, the Mattie Kelly Arts Center ushers will also meet with Kevin Spencer. He will give them some tips on what to expect at the show, advice on how to handle potential circumstances and answer any questions the ushers may have.

With more than 30 years in the entertainment industry, Spencer will conclude his time here on the Emerald Coast with an afternoon of magic and illusion at his nationally-touring show Hocus Focus. This sensory-friendly performance is designed to create an experience that is welcoming to all families including those with children with autism or other developmental or intellectual disabilities that create sensory sensitivities. The fun-filled show that combines storytelling, stage magic, and audience participation was specifically designed to be baffling and entertaining for all members of the audience.

This event is free and open to the public. Donations will be accepted at the door.

To see the full list of upcoming events at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center, visit www.mattiekellyartscenter.org.

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