Helping Through Magic

Introduction

Magician 
Courtesy of WikiMedia.Org

I love magic tricks and the positive effects it has on people. I have been fascinated with card tricks and disappearing acts since I was a kid and first saw David Copperfield on TV making the Statue of Liberty disappear. I am a bit of an amateur magician myself and perhaps in a later program I'll even perform a few magic tricks, but this program is not about that or the history of magic or famous magic tricks and magicians. It is about how magic tricks can actually help people.

By learning magic tricks


Dr. Dido Green uses magic 
to help a young patient regain 
movement in her left arm. 
(Credit: Guy's and 
St. Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust)

Physical exercise has been proven to improve the physical skills and inner confidence to children with motor disorders like one side paralysis. The problem is that it is often hard to motivate children with motor disabilities to exercise. So what's one way of motivating them? By teaching them magic tricks. A researcher from Tel Aviv University, Dr Dido Green, devised a series of exercises based on actual sleight of hand tricks actually used by professional magicians. So while the kids are learning these moves and practicing, they are actually in fact also exercising in a challenging, but fun and engaging way. "Not only did the kids get a kick out of the magic tricks, they loved doing the exercises every day." A summer magic camp is in the works for children with impaired motor skills caused by spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy and diseases affecting the central nervous system.

Research conducted in Australia and the United States in 2011 showed that teaching simple magic tricks to children suffering from High Functioning Autism is helpful. People with autism usually face challenges in behaviour, social cognition, linguistics and even motor coordinator and sensory abilities. The good news for children suffering from High Functioning Autism is that they have the potential to learn and develop when they are still young in order to succeed when they become adults. So how does learning magic tricks helps them?

Learning magic tricks has a number of advantages for these children:

1. If learning in a classroom environment, the experience encourages the child to be sociable and cooperative when practicing these tricks with others as well as by providing them a positive and rewarding social experience.

2. It encourages the child to develop meaningful conversations and the art of listening, identify and respond to facial expression as well as recognizing and implementing the codes of social conduct.

3. Improves the child's motor skills.

Besides this, once a child has mastered the trick, the desire to perform the trick for someone else is a powerful motivator for them to successfully engage with people.

 

Even magician David Copperfield started a Project Magic organization in order to help children and adults in hospitals and rehabilitation centers to improve their condition. David argues that by learning magic tricks, one would not only improve socialization skills, confidence, dexterity, coordination and memory, but also feel better about yourself while performing a magic act.

There are also several program in the US where simple magic tricks are taught to children in order to promote growth, attentiveness, imagination and confidence.

 

Through the science behind it

Several experiments have been performed to understand how people with autism function in order to devise ways of helping them. Some of these experiments were based on performing magic tricks which rely on social cues in order to see how people with autism interpret them.

What Magic Reveals About Autism: 6:22 min

A similar research, involving the three upside-down cups and three balls (where the balls seemingly jump from cup to cup, teleporting from one into another and so on), wanted to shed light on basic processes such as cognition in order to again better understand people with autism.

Magic and autism: 1:50 min

 

Magic in giving

Quite a few Rotary clubs make use of magic events and magic shows for their fundraising events with the goal of raising money for charitable initiatives and projects, of course. Rotary Club of Glendale Moonlight, Rotary Club of Santa Barbara, Sussex Rotary Club, Rotary Club of West Perth, to name a few, have successfully conducted such fundraising events.

Families affected by autism enjoying one of the numerous Rotary held magic shows

 

One of the most worthy events to mention is a joint operation between the Rotary Club of Adelaide and the World Festival of Magic. Over the past 18 years, their club has hosted many shows accommodating tens of thousands of disadvantaged children allowing them to have a very memorable magic experience. These shows not only provide these special children to see a world class magic event, but also bring joy, amazement and passion to their hearts.

How can you help?

You can start learning some magic tricks and inspire the children around you. Here is a simple one you can teach children in your travels:

Easy Coin Trick: 2:18 min

 

Or you can be like this person and spread help and hope through magic:

Money Magic Trick for Homeless: 3:31 min

 

P.S. Did you know there is a Fellowship of Rotarian Magicians? Feel free to take a look and join if you wish: http://rotarianmagician.org

 
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