Keywords: United States, autism, developmental disabilities, school-based, arts

Hocus Focus

Hocus Focus is an NGO offering an in-school programme to students with autism and intellectual disabilities that operates across the United States. The programme uses a multi-disciplinary approach to teach students magic tricks, with the aim on developing students’ cognitive, motor, social and communication skills. An accompanying analytical app helps students, schools and parents monitor progress. Hocus Focus has already replicated outside the US and wants to develop a licensing model to expand further.

About the practice at a glance
Name of OrganisationHocus Focus, Inc.
Type of organisationNGO
Country
of Implementation
United States
Year started2010
Funding modelCurriculum development fully funded by Hocus Focus, Inc. at a cost of $25,000. Training and analyics website were also fully funded by Hocus Focus, Inc. at a cost of $2,500.

IMPACT

The Hocus Focus curriculum requires students to develop presentation skills while improving cognition, motor skills, communication, socialization, and creativity. The supplemental curriculum was launched in 2010 in a limited number of USA schools to gather data on the benefits of the approach. Approximately 10 teachers and 100 students with autism, EBD, and learning disabilities participated in an 8-week program using a prototype of the curriculum and provided valuable input on restructuring the lessons, developing the final curriculum and developing the CPR Analytics scale. The use of magic tricks as a learning tool has proved to be highly motivating, assisting students with autism, emotional behavior disorders (EBD), and learning disabilities in reaching their learning goals and objectives. We have seen dramatic improvements in self-esteem and self-confidence. In the first six months of 2019, Hocus Focus has provided professional development training for more than 300 educators; has been delivered to hundreds of students; more than 100 educators have accessed the online training program; and 75 students are currently enrolled in CPR Analytics for evaluation. 

THEORY OF CHANGE

We asked projects to outline their impact model (also called Theory of Change) – their main target groups, the key activities they offer these target groups, and what impact they want to achieve:

Target GroupActivityImpact
EducatorsProfessional Development TrainingUse of arts-integrated approach to teaching students with disabilities
ProfessorsProfessional Training & Course
Development
Instruction to future educators on the value of arts integration in the classroom for reaching students of all abilities.
Students & Individuals with Disabilities WorkshopsImprovement in cognition, motor skills, communication, social skills, and creativity.
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REPLICATION EXPERIENCE

Hocus Focus has already been replicated. We have established both live and online training programs which provide educators with the knowledge to replicate the project in other areas. We have been successful in replicating the program in Germany and Australia (self-funded) and, currently, are implementing the training with a select group of specialists in Russia through funding provided by the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and the Eurasia Foundation. It has also been successfully implemented in Poland, the UK, Ireland and Hong Kong. In the future, licensing fees for use of the assessment instruments and access to the training site will provide additional funding. Hocus Focus will be training and implementing the program in South America and Southeast Asia in 2020/2021, and the current project in Berlin is expanding into other areas in Germany through 2023. 

ORGANISATIONAL CAPACITY AND STRATEGY

Replication is a significant part of our strategy. We have spent the last four years researching the benefits of this approach and publishing that research in leading education journals. We believe research is critical in order to support sustainability. While we have access to human resources, financial resources would be limited. Finding international university partners would unlock some funding sources through the Fulbright Specialist program. Kevin Spencer, who would be the project lead, is the founder and creator of the Hocus Focus programme. He has an certification in Autism Studies, a M.Ed. in Arts and Interdisciplinary Academic Education, and is a PhD candidate in Special Education. More information is available at https://www.linkedin.com/in/kevinwspencer/ 

MOTIVATION

We believe in the effectiveness of this program in achieving positive growth in cognition, motor skills, communication, social skills, and creativity in children with disabilities. Hocus Focus wants to share this innovative concept with special educators around the world! Our biggest challenge is finding international connections to help us create sustainable partnerships. In order to remove barriers to inclusion and provide opportunities for individuals with disabilities to become productive members of society, we need to start by providing quality professional development training to educators and impact teacher education programs in institutions of higher learning. This is our primary challenge.