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Elite user
Chicago area
417 Posts

Profile of krowboom
I'm not sure if this is the right place to ask but I am doing a show for 18-22 year old challenged youth. This includes Downs, autistic, etc. I am not sure what works the best. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
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Veteran user
383 Posts

Profile of RJE2
We've always found that family show material works well with this type of audience. Silks and visual effects that create excitement, like fast paced children's comedy bits, work well. Doves and rabbit go over very well if you have them. Keep it light and flexible and they can prove to be one of the best audiences you've ever worked for.
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Upstate NY, USA
746 Posts

Profile of iwillfoolu
I agree that they are one of the most appreciative types of audiences for which you can perform. Be prepared for outbursts and "broadcasting" as that is normal behavior. Also note that some of them won't like loud noises or to be touched. Do some fun routines and they will talk about you forever.

I do my usual family show as well (sponges, vanishing cane, rope routine, change bag, card productions). Treat them like anyone else. That's all they want.

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Jay Ward
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Veteran user
Flowery Branch, GA
328 Posts

Profile of Jay Ward
Autistic and Down Syndrome kids generally love magic. I've had great luck with them. They will probably like the stuff you do for younger kids. Sponges for sure, they can be very excited to see the ball appear in their hand. Keep it colorful and fun, and don't try to alter it from what you'd do for kids. It will probably be a rewarding show for you. They will laugh at the funny parts and be amazed at the magic. That's been my experience anyway!
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Inner circle
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Profile of Regan
Krowboom, I'm glad you brought this up. I have also been asked to do a similar show. Although I have performed many shows with a few challenged people in the audience, I have never done a show where the entire audience is made up of challenged people. The proposed show that I was contacted about will be made up with people of all ages. I believe they said, "eleven to 40-something". I will be listening in if its ok, and I'm sure I can get some helpful information here too.


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Bob Sanders
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Grammar Supervisor
Magic Valley Ranch, Clanton, Alabama
20521 Posts

Profile of Bob Sanders
My original reply to this is posted at

They actually make a good audience but the show has to stay in forward motion and be very visual. It is a pleasure to entertain them.

Bob Sanders
Magic By Sander
Bob Sanders

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Elite user
Chicago area
417 Posts

Profile of krowboom
Thanks for the responses. They were very helpful and I will gear my show accordingly.
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Profile of charliecheckers
I have performed for an audience made up entirely of youg children with Downs (ages 2-6) and their families. There will be different degrees of capabilities amoung those affected by Downs and/or Autism. Some will be able to participate and others may not (although they may want to). The key is to make all feel that they are helping make the show great. Also, Staff or Families may have a concern that lower functioning audience members will "get in the way" and upset the show. My advice is to act unfazed by any disruption, let the staff/family member know that it is fine (whatever the audience member is doing that may seem disruptive)and that it actually helps allow all to have a great time. Keep the show visual,fast paced and music is most helpful.
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Profile of TonyB2009
My experience of people with Downs Syndrome is that they are bright, engaging, and enthusiastic. Any good family show will normally go down very well with them. Plenty of humour, colour, and audience involvement. They are very sociable, and enjoy being involved. They will ham it up and make your show all that much better.

Autism is different. There is a broad spectrum from super-bright people with Aspergers who will enjoy intellectually challenging magic, to those lost in a world of their own, who will not engage with you. It is best to seek advice from the carers about what you are facing in the autistic range, and shape your show accordingly. They are going to be your only issue; the Downs kids will love you.
Potty the Pirate
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Profile of Potty the Pirate
I agree with all the above posts. I love to perform for challenged kids, and adults. They are a really appreciative and enthusiastic audience. It's a mistake to imagine that older kids will respond well to childish effects, just because they maybe have mental issues, etc. Offer material that you'd normally offer to the same age group, but keep it simple, visual, and colourful. And avoid anything which might be too "clever" for them. The only real difference I've noticed between adults with learning disabilities, etc, is that they still enjoy plenty of silliness.
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Eternal Order
Philadelphia, PA
15111 Posts

Profile of magic4u02
There is a few things you want to remember when performing for mentally challenged children. The biggest one of all is to treat them with respect as you would anyone. Regardless of how they may appear to come across to you, they still want what we all want. Respect and to have a great time.

Do NOT go into any event like this feeling sorry for them. This is the wrong attitude to take and it starts to effect your way of thinking and how you approach it. Instead think of ways in which you can better connect and relate to them and ways in which to maximize the fun and interactions.

One thing you will want to do is contact the organization or person you are performing the show for. Chances are they know a LOT about mental handicaps, autism, down syndrome etc. They can and will help you. All you have to do is pick up the phone and ask the questions. Not only can they help, they can also provide you with information to be sent to you to help you out. Sometimes this can come in the form of DVDs or books they will gladly send to you.

In most cases of mentally challenged children, they love the journey more then the magic. In fact the magic may not mean as much to them as it would others. However, they love to laugh and smile and have a good time. You can achieve this through routines that are simple, visual and fun. The usage of storytelling, visual and physical comedy work really well as does puppets and puppetry.

You want to stay away from routines that are overly complicated or are geared at a wow response. It just does not work well as they do not see the magic in that fashion. However, standard principles of “see don’t see” and “magician in trouble” can still work very nicely.

I would tend to make a show around 30-35 mins. It tends to be a good time so as to still maintain focus and allow the children to remain engaged. The key is this engagement. You want a show that reaches out to them and engages their focus through interaction. This does not mean always a helper on stage. It can mean asking a question and getting an answer back. It can mean having them all wiggle their fingers to make the magic happen. It can mean eye contact and teaching them how to clap and when. It also means you complementing them through out the show showing positive reinforcement.

Now every child is different and every condition has its own unique traits you need to understand and educate yourself with. However, there are some similar traits each tend to share that we can learn from.

Many will have a physical strength far greater then their mental age. This simply means a child aged 15 may have a 15 year olds strength but a mental age far lower. This means they want to express themselves more emotionally in the way of handshakes and hugs are a big thing. They just often do not know their own strength. However, they mean well.

Loud noises and sudden movements can often frighten certain children. You may want to be a bit conscious of this as you build your routines.

Another trait is the inability to focus attention or remain still. This is not because your show is bad. It simply is the fact that the condition they have makes it harder. You can maintain focus through the usage of things I mentioned above.

When you arrive at the event, make sure to ask that the teachers or parents sit with their child. It really helps you by allowing them to help their children and be able to watch the show as a family.

Most of all, remember that they may not be able to express themselves and say thank you to you verbally. However, know that you ARE making a difference in the life of a child.

Kyle Peron

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