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MeetMagicMike
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After a recent show I got this in response to my survey:

"Pay attention to special needs children, they are heartbroken when they don't get picked to participate especially when they are behaving properly"

The rest of the survey comments were very positive.

I recall during that show that when I chose a child for a trick another child came from the back of the audience and came right up to me and shook my hand and began to talk. He seemed to be special needs and I was friendly and had him go back and sit down.

I'm guessing that this is what the survey comment is about.

My question is how do I respond to this email?

1) Phone the person and ask for clarification

2) Email her explaining that I don't exclude special needs children and generally don't even know which kids are special needs. I would probably not choose as a volunteer any child who came up on stage without being asked.

3) Just take the info and don't respond specifically.

I drafted a couple of emails and didn't like the way they came out. I'm not sure if she thinks I should have chosen the child who came up on stage un-asked. She said "especially when they are acting appropriately" so was she talking about this child or some other children in the audience (who I didn't know are special needs).

I sort of want to ask her how am I supposed to know who the special needs kids are? Am I supposed to judge them by looks or mannerism and then specifically make sure I choose one special needs child per show? I supposed I also need to choose one child of each gender and race each show too.

I also want to tell her that if kids are going to be heartbroken if not chosen then that goes for all the kids. So no kids should be chosen at all?
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btedeski
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Why do you feel you need to respond?
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MeetMagicMike
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Quote:
On Apr 11, 2014, btedeski wrote:
Why do you feel you need to respond?


I probably don't. Just wondering what exactly she is saying. I kind of feel like she would expect me to choose a special needs child each show so that "they" wont feel heartbroken. But I'd like to bring her attention to the fact that I don't have any real way of knowing exactly who is special needs and that even if I did I couldn't prevent some of them from being heartbroken.
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Neale Bacon
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I wouldn't bother responding, except maybe to say Thanks for giving me something to think about. I will try harder to do that in future shows.

I have had special needs kids come up when I had called someone else. I try to find something for them to do, even if it is holding a prop for the routine I am doing.
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arthur stead
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Don't feel obliged to respond. Her email didn't seem to expect an answer, so just let it ride. And get used to the fact that you can't please everybody.
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danfreed
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That's a tough one. If you want to respond, I'd just say you want to be inclusive as possible and you often don't know who is special needs, in part because you are so busy performing it's hard to focus on everything and everyone at the same time, and then ask for her advice. Neale's idea is good, have a wand or something ready for them to hold, and then get another volunteer who is able to participate in the routine. I had a girl come up for a routine a few weeks ago, and I didn't know she was special needs, in fact I thought she was a boy and called her one - oops (that's another topic), and she wasn't able to follow any instructions at all, couldn't look forward, couldn't/wouldn't hold a wand, etc, and that routine depends on cooperation or it simply doesn't work - so I should have had a back-up plan. So if you knowingly pick a person with a mental mental disability, do it for something really simple and quick, or even let the person stay seated. Like if you do a coloring book routine, and you want the ink to re-appear, walk over to the person and say "all I have to do is wave the book over your head and ..oh my gosh, you must be magic, the ink disappeared".
BTW, in case anyone is interested, the PC way to talk about a person with a disability is to put the word person before the phrase special needs (a person with special needs), as opposed to saying special needs person or disabled child or whatever.
MeetMagicMike
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Most of you are confirming my thoughts. I drafted a couple of emails but felt that they would not help the situation.

There have been times when I found something for the person who barged up on stage to do but in general I think this is an awful idea. What does it say to the kids who are following your directions? The exceptions I made were when it was the younger sibling of the birthday child and I was planning pick them later.

Letting the person with special needs who barges on stage stay doesn't actually solve anything. There are likely to be other people with special needs in the audience who are going to be "heartbroken" and just learn to live with it. Also would it really help the person in question to teach them that "it's easier to get forgiven than to get permission?"

I think my show is about as interactive as any show around. I make a lot of eye contact and have lots for all the kids to do even if they don't come up on stage.
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TomBoleware
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I probably wouldn't change anything, but I would never just disregard feedback, especially if its feedback you asked for.

Maybe send a thank you note:

"Thanks for taking the time to complete the survey. All feedback is taken into consideration. I appreciate your comment about the special needs children. I too have a special place in my heart for them. Thanks for reminding me that we do sometimes overlook them."

Tom
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rossmacrae
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In addition to what has been said in prior responses, although it may be difficult to get off your "script" without losing track of where you are, consider that in this situation you might have taken the "late arrival" in ... give the kid a wand to hold ("the magic's not working, we need you to wave your wand too!") or a prop to hold ("this trick usually works ... maybe if you [hold this rubber chicken / wear my magic hat and wave your magic fingers like this]")

Quote:
On Apr 11, 2014, MeetMagicMike wrote:

There have been times when I found something for the person who barged up on stage to do but in general I think this is an awful idea. What does it say to the kids who are following your directions?...

Letting the person with special needs who barges on stage stay doesn't actually solve anything. There are likely to be other people with special needs in the audience who are going to be "heartbroken" and just learn to live with it. Also would it really help the person in question to teach them that "it's easier to get forgiven than to get permission?"


You don't have to "teach" the audience or the interrupting kid anything ... you have to make the best entertainment out of the situation in front of you.

I guarantee that the adults' take-away when you include the kid will be "awwwwww..." and a couple of extra bookings.
TomBoleware
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Well said Ross.

It does sound to me like maybe she thought he send the child back to his seat a little too soon. And I understand why you can't spend time with everyone. But what 'we' think has nothing to do with it, what she thinks does. Something like the above thank you note might put her mind at ease.

I wouldn't make excuses why I did or even admit that I did, but I would let her know how I felt about special kids.

The customer is not always right, but if they walk away thinking they are, they may as well be.

Tom
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charliecheckers
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Quote:
On Apr 11, 2014, danfreed wrote:
BTW, in case anyone is interested, the PC way to talk about a person with a disability is to put the word person before the phrase special needs (a person with special needs), as opposed to saying special needs person or disabled child or whatever.

Thank you for sharing this very important perspective. Sometimes PC goes too far, but the above advice is something I believe is noteworthy. That, and Tom's suggestion a few post above were great to read.
The Great Zucchini
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Very interesting threat. My volunteer choice is always very diverse, and I try to incorporate special needs, all the time, for the mere fact that I want these kids to shine, as sometimes they might be overlooked when it comes to being picked on the playground-sports ect. With that being said, I never use a child that walks forward on their own(doesn't happen often), but I have them go back to their seat.
I don't want to send the message that the way to get in my show is by walking up, because then you will have a line of kids jumping up that way. If I ever got a note like this, I would explain it this way, myself.
TonyB2009
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Tom's response sounds perfect to me. I would respond, even though it was a survey rather than an unsolicited email. Tom's response makes you look like the good guy, which I am sure you are.
jay leslie
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Mike, I would have responded.

"Thank you for the comment. As a course of business, I always select X amount of children and they all are the best behaved. If one extra comes-up during a routine I have them go back to their seat because I only need the helper that was selected.. but they shouldn't feel left out because I try to involve all the kids by saying a magic word or in another way so they can be part of the show even while they are seated.

I have an idea. Why not hire me for your next party then I can have your child help twice, if he's not too shy - once at the beginning and once at the end. You can video tape the show if you want too, that way you can have those memories for 20 years from now.

Please feel free to call anytime so we can check the calendar.
Thank you for your interest."
MeetMagicMike
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Tom, your wording does indeed sound perfect to me. Thanks. And thanks for all the other good thoughts guys.
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TomBoleware
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Thanks, glad I could help.

Sometimes it's best to just bite the bullet, as they say, and move on.

I learned a long time ago that the only words more powerful than 'please and thank you'

are 'Yes Ma'am.' Smile

Tom
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Dynamike
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Magic Mike, you might want to invite her to this thread like Potty the Pirate did with one the guest he had at his party who emailed him something he got by surprise.
MeetMagicMike
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Tom, I can't tell you how many times I have brought up a concern (complained) to an employee and had them politely explain why they do what they did etc etc. What I really wanted was for them to simply acknowledge that they heard and understood my concern. Many times I don't expect someone to take action on my one comment. I just want to know they heard it.
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gmsmagic1
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Quote:
On Apr 11, 2014, TomBoleware wrote:
I probably wouldn't change anything, but I would never just disregard feedback, especially if its feedback you asked for.

Maybe send a thank you note:

"Thanks for taking the time to complete the survey. All feedback is taken into consideration. I appreciate your comment about the special needs children. I too have a special place in my heart for them. Thanks for reminding me that we do sometimes overlook them."

Tom



My 6 year old daughter lost an eye to cancer and almost lost her life. As the father of a child with special needs, my biggest fear as she grows up is that I don't want other kids to ever make fun of her. I've spent several years surrounded by kids with special needs every time my daughter stays at the Ronald McDonald House while being treated at Johns Hopkins. Trust me on this... the biggest compliment you can pay to any child with special needs is to treat them like everyone else!

So while Tom's above suggested response is perfect in my opinion, I'll also add that this clients reaction is totally irrational under the circumstances since you had no way of even knowing that this child had any special needs or thrived for attention - because the child was behaving properly according to the client. They should be flattered that you never knew differently. And if they wanted you to know, they should have told you up front.

Sadly, the biggest mistake that many parents make that have kids with special needs or even gifted kids for that matter, is that they treat them differently and expect others to do the same. Most of these kids just want to fit in. Not be pitied. Absolutely involve them in the party in an appropriate manner if you have the opportunity and it makes them happy, but don't forget that you've been hired to entertain everyone.

- Gary
themagiciansapprentice
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Selecting volunteers is always difficult

if a booker knows me they seem to insist on me using their two children/grandchildren etc

you have NO WAY OF KNOWING if the SEN child(ren) you didn't pick included the one mentioned or not - but I would have found them a spare magic wand , I only send children back to their seats if they are under-3 so unable to really help

how you respond is difficult - personally I wouldn't if I have had to wait, if I respond straight away I'd thank them for their comments and point how many children I used (often 20+ in a school show)
Have wand will travel! Performing children's magic in the UK for Winter 2014 and Spring 2015.
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