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Sydney, Australia
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Profile of MagicMatthews
I have a high functioning autistic daughter who will be 8 next month. She loves the magic tricks. I've even started teaching her some simple ones. What manal and zanyzack have shared is excellent. Anything highly visual and entertaining: If it works with autistic kids then it should be great for a whole audience.

A funny story which has happened more than once: While my wife and I were performing, and my kids were in the audience, my daughter has come up on stage, picked up a wireless mic, turned it on, and started making various sounds. It was hillarious the second time because it looked staged and I played along.

I have also unwittingly picked autistic kids as volunteers and they haven't been able to even stand still to hold a prop. Just a reminder that it pays to choose carefully.
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Profile of gbradburn
Good point Magic Matthews about choosing carefully. I was doing a birthday party and I like to get the kids interactively involved. For instance, I had the zippered change-bag and had them reach inside to see that it's really empty or put their arm through it after unzipping it. One child with special needs kept wanting to grab and attempt to take and not let go of any prop that came within her reach.

It wasn't really a big problem but something to be careful about.
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Bill Davis
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Profile of Magic38
D Lite is good also vanishing a coin and producing it from the spectators
ear. also Monkey Business by Derek Rutt. I believe anything comical would be good.
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Profile of gaddy
Hi folks,

thanks for the great advice on this thread. Very helpful to me as I am volunteering to perform for autistic and developmental disabled kids next week, with a range of disabilities and kids in the level of the high schools age.

Any other tips and ideas that haven't been discussed would be very helpful. I've worked with young adults in situations like this in the past, but this is the first time I've ever entertained them, and I feel hard pressed to switch from "authority" mode to "your magic pal" mode. Do you know what I mean?

Anyhow, thanks again for advice already offered!

PS- I'm thinking of Q. Reynolds "5 Minutes With a Pocket Handkerchief". What do you think? Too "kiddie"?
*due to The Magic Cafe's editorial policies, words on this site attributed to me cannot necessarily be held to be my own.*
Alex Palombo
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Abington, Pennislyvania
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Just be yourself and make sure they understand whatyour saying.

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Profile of manal
I think the hanky routine would be good.
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Profile of psychod
I realize that I'm really late to this "party" but the best line I ever heard about understanding autistic kids is: "If you've seen one kid with autism, you've seen one kid with autism." I work in a school and have probably encountered 15-20 kids diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. I've yet to find two who are alike.

Just adding my 3 cents worth because anybody can add their 2 cents worth...
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Dallas, TX
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Profile of NurseRob
Kevin Spencer is doing great work with autism and magic these days! you should check out his work. Hocus Focus is a program that may be very helpful to magicians wishing to use their magic in a meaningful way for kids with autism. Volunteering is awesome too. When you work for love, you can write your own check!!
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Profile of psychod
One of the things you may want to think about is your use of noise. Some kids on the ASD are very sensitive to noise and you want to be very aware of that. You may think that a song goes along well with your magic but to some kids on the spectrum, it can sound like a gunshot in their ears so you need to be sensitive to that. I think a lot of people have given some very good advice as far as keeping it relatively quick, simple, and visual...of course, that could be a recommendation for working with children in general! If you are doing a show for a mixed group of children, you may not even know which children are on the spectrum as they vary incredibly (just like the general population). Also, don't be bothered if they don't make eye contact with you...I remember reading one person with autism saying that looking at someone in the eyes is as painful as it would be if we were to stare at a bright light bulb. However,, don't assume that because they may not look at you doesn't mean that they aren't paying attention.

Just adding my 3 cents worth because anybody can add their 2 cents worth...
The Great Todd
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Profile of The Great Todd
This was a great read. I will be performing this Friday for 30 Children and 30 adults. All with Autism and Asperger's. I was thinking along the same lines, but was considering avoiding asking for assistance from the audience. Only one or two of the posts mentioned effects with assistance. The contact said that they would see about one or two that might be good candidates for coming up, so I'll be prepared for going either way.
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Profile of 1KJ
On Mar 29, 2007, Father Photius wrote:
Autism is actually a broad number of syndromes and/or symptomologies. To say no two autistic children are alike would be pretty accurate. I have a Ph.D. in psychology, and while autism has never been my domain of speciality, and to be honest I haven't practiced clinically in a number of years, I was party to some study done with autistic children at a medical school I once worked at. Patter will be your biggest problem, many if not most autistic children have trouble dealing with and processing audible information. Keep it visual. Of the posts I read above, I'd say pay particularly close attention to what the parents of autistic children above advised. That is pretty accurate information, and considering they are into magic, well obviously they have experience with how their children respond to magic. Getting advice on any special needs type child before doing a show for them is a great idea.

This is good advice. I would add something that Manal touched on. I would suggest that unless you have experience with autistic people, don't try to engage them in conversation. Don't try to have them be an active participant in an effect. That doesn't mean you can't talk to an autistic person, just don't do anything that requires them to reciprocate in conversation or in actions. Just do fun visual magic without a complicated patter and without requiring their input. This allows them to just watch and enjoy.

I have a good friend with an autistic son, and it took me quite a while to understand the dynamics of how to interact with him.

Thinking through these things is helpful when performing for non-autistic people. Some of these same things can apply. For example, if you are performing for a corporate group on a Friday evening, after a long week's work, you might want to structure your magic accordingly. If I'm trying to enjoy a cocktail and watch a magic show, I wouldn't want to sit through the magician who is challenging my brain at every moment.. "So, where's the ball now?"... "Now how many coins do I have in my left hand?" If you put yourself in their shoes, you might think "Would you stop asking me questions and just get on with your little show?"

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Profile of mlts22
This is a really good topic. I'm working on a volunteer children's act myself, and the above is very good advice. I am going to try to have my tricks flow/segue into one another, working on the visuals mainly. Even the basic tricks that require little to no sleight of hand work like "different sized cups, same amount of water", seem to be very entertaining. There is no dialog or explaining to do, and the visuals are what keeps the audience interested.

Autism is tough, because it isn't a "one size fits all" problem. Some kids might be intelligent, but just don't have the vocal articulation, so they understand everything you are saying, but don't keep up verbally. Others might just be withdrawn and have a "defensive perimeter" established, and it takes a lot to overcome that.

All and all, I'd say this type of audience is the most challenging, as well as the most rewarding, in my relatively limited experience.
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Profile of Lin_
The thread itself is old thing, but I want to make talk about this thing.

I think you should not show close-up things, especially card tricks. Rather than, I suggest show them stage stuffs, including illusion effects. Unless most of them are in Asperger's Syndrome, They would not understand when you show card tricks - because of many of them are not seeing small stuffs.

And one more thing that I want to stress is "to prepare for exposure of secret", especially in the case of low distance between magician(s) and autism audiences. Some people willing to get to stage, then want to find what is the 'secret', especially in people with Asperger's Syndrome.
Theodore Lawton
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Profile of Theodore Lawton
This has been a great thread. Thanks for all your advice. I may be performing for autistic children in the very near future and this will help immensely.
The Mysterious One
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Profile of The Mysterious One
I know that this is an old thread. Been lurking at the Café for years while continue to grow in this wonderful art. I don't comment often, but I will now. This has been a fantastic thread. I have a 12 year old nephew with Asperger's. I haven't seen him in 4 years due to he and his parents moving to 31 hours away. While visiting, I recently performed one of my favorite card effects. I am very use to performing for various aged audiences throughout the years. His response after I performed this card effect was (with a straight face) "I don't know what you did but magic is not real." He looked very concerned and looked at his father for acknowledging what he said. He then proceeded to say that magic is impossible. A very different reaction than the rest of his family that were either speechless or smiling while saying "No way..." I have been wondering how can I get a strong, positive reaction performing for an individuals with Asperger's or on the autism spectrum

Performing for autistic kids to me sounds like a real challenge. I have a potential gig coming up with a 16 year old autistic girl that functions at a 4 year old level. I looked at the gig as a wonderful challenge to learn, have fun, and thoroughly entertain this girl and her family. The advice on this thread will contribute to that.

I know it is kind of late to say this but thank you everyone for your comments.
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Profile of bignickolson
Just because you don't get the reactions you expect doesn't mean they're not enjoying the show. I've done things for people with autism and it all varies. They're just as different as any other random spectator. Try what your good at it and if it doesn't seem to work adjust accordingly.
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