For thousands of years, magicians have been using their craft as a form of entertainment. But illusionists Kevin and Cindy Spencer discovered a whole new use for their tricks: making patient's ailments disappear.
Kevin Spencer stopped by The Saturday Early Show to demonstrate how his program, "The Healing of Magic," is helping some people with disabilities.
Since 1984, the Spencers have been spreading the word about using magic tricks as a healing tool in rehabilitation medicine/
The Spencers don't claim to have originated the concept, but they have greatly expanded upon it. Through their efforts, new treatments are being explored and used to improve the everyday motor skills of people who have experienced strokes, accidents, spinal cord or head injuries, learning or developmental disabilities, visual deficits, and psycho-social disorders, as well as people who have problems with alcohol or other drug abuse.
For someone who has been labeled "disabled" by society, learning to do something that "able-bodied" people cannot do, such as a magic trick, provides them the opportunity to feel special and offers a tremendous boost to their self-esteem, according to the Spencers. They explain, "People who may not have been motivated to re-learn skills of daily living often become enthusiastic about learning magic tricks. The movements required to learn the tricks help them achieve new skill levels while increasing motivation and self-image. They not only improve motor, cognitive and perceptual skills, they experience that all-important feeling of self-worth and satisfaction."
The concepts of the "Healing of Magic" have been endorsed by the over 50,000 members of the American Occupational Therapy Association and have been featured in a number of publications such as Health Care, The Washington Post, the New York Times, the American Medical News Journal and Health magazine.
For their endeavors, the Spencers were nominated for the Jefferson Award for Public Service sponsored by the Kennedy Foundation. They also received the Outstanding Young Virginian Award from the Virginia Jaycees. In 1992, they were honored to receive the Harry Chapin Award for Contributions to Humanity for their work in the field of rehabilitation medicine.
To the Spencers, magic is truly more than an illusion, a stage performance, or just a way to make a living. It is a way to make a difference in the lives of their audience and those they work with in hospitals and rehabilitation centers around the world.