Virtual UAB Magic Camp pairs children with disabilities, occupational therapy students

Learning and performing magic tricks can benefit children and adults with disabilities through rehabilitation in three key areas: dexterity, motivation and socialization.

magic camp.2Children ages 9-18 with disabilities will participate in a free, annual Magic Camp designed for them and held virtually via Zoom this summer, presented by the University of Alabama at Birmingham.   

Learning and performing magic tricks can benefit children and adults with disabilities. The approach promotes motivation and improves physical, psychological, perceptual or social functions in those who participate and has been shown to be an effective treatment technique.  

The children will learn two or three magic tricks in two, three-week camp sessions. The end of each camp will feature a streamed magic show performance for friends and family.

UAB Magic Camp is part of a collaboration between the UAB School of Health Professions’ Department of Occupational Therapy, Children’s of Alabama, Hocus Focus™ and the UAB Institute for Arts in Medicine. UAB Occupational Therapy students will lead the camps. The students are trained in the protocol developed by illusionist and educator Kevin Spencer, an international authority on the therapeutic use of magic tricks in physical and psycho-social rehabilitation. 

Magic Camp 1 will be June 7-25, and Magic Camp 2 will be July 12-30. Each camper will be paired with two OT students for the duration of the camp. Through this pairing, campers will be able to work at their own speed and have a personalized learning experience. Camp is free and open to children ages 9-18 who have been diagnosed with a disability. The virtual camp welcomes participants from all over the United States and internationally. Anyone who is interested can contact Lauren Edwards at Limited spots are available. 

Spencer, an award-winning performing artist who toured the world for more than 25 years, created Hocus Focus™ to support the learning of students, with varying degrees of challenges and abilities, through the art of magic. He brings his magic to UAB OT Magic Camp through UAB’s artist-in-residence fellowship program. During his UAB residency, Spencer works with UAB OT students and gives them their own bag of tricks — complete with magical props like ropes and wands — and shows them how to perform basic magic. However, the real trick is that the students are learning more than magic: They are learning to direct their clients’ rehabilitation in three key areas: dexterity, motivation and socialization.

The lessons, camp and show are highlights in occupational therapy students’ journey, says Gavin Jenkins, Ph.D., OTR/L, associate professor and chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy.

AIM, through a collaboration with UAB Medicine and the Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center, focuses on the needs of the whole person — mind, body and spirit — and it includes both interactive and passive arts experiences, which can include bedside and workshop activities, or performances and visual art installations in public spaces.