In the current environment of accountability in education, it has become increasingly important to link interventions to improved student outcomes. If the arts have any hope of remaining relevant in our schools, teachers must be able to demonstrate effectiveness of an arts based curriculum across multiple dimensions including cognition.

Hocus Focus™ is a child-centered, arts-based program that combines education with imagination to help students develop and improve their skills in a variety of important areas. Spencer’s interdisciplinary approach to designing Hocus Focus™ values a holistic philosophy so essential to effective educational experiences that are generalizable for all children, including those with disabilities. It transcends the confines of culture by its very nature of incorporating play, reaching beyond the boundaries of the U.S. educational system and influencing a global audience.

Hocus Focus™ is also a creative instructional tool to support the learning of students with varying degrees of educational challenges and abilities including autistic, cognitively delayed, emotionally disturbed and learning disabled students. The activities are motivational, promote positive self-expression and reinforce so many key skills needed for student success.

Hocus Focus™ is grounded in creativity and innovation. It incorporates both teacher and peer instruction and contains elements of inquiry-based, problem-based, and project-based learning combined with hands-on, arts-integrated activities and responsive teaching.

The activities in the Hocus Focus™ program are aligned with State and Common Core Standards of Learning in science, mathematics, and language arts.

Here are some additional academic connections:

• Speaking and Listening
• Storytelling and Oral Expression
• Identifying Key Ideas and Details
• Following Multi-step and Complex Procedures
• Writing Informative/Explanatory Texts
• Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
• Production and Distribution of Writing
• Comprehension and collaboration
• Presentation of knowledge and ideas
• Vocabulary acquisition and use

Want to know more? Check out this 60-second video for a quick and brief introduction to the Hocus Focus™ program!

According to Autism Speaks, a new government survey of parents suggests that 1 in 45 American children (ages 3 through 17) have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This is notably higher than the official Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate of 1 in 68.
ASD is the second most-common developmental disability diagnosis affecting more children than diabetes, AIDS, cancer, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, or Down syndrome combined.

Spencer holds a Certification in Autism Studies and a M.Ed. in Arts & Interdisciplinary Academic Education. He is especially interested in the benefits of arts integrated interventions to improve the skills that many with ASD find challenging. He has published research in the Journal of the International Association of Special Education and the Journal of the International Society for Teacher Education on the education benefits of the arts in the classroom.

A feature article in INSIDE AUTISM magazine referred to Spencer as the kid whisperer because of his keen ability to connect with children with ASD.

Hocus Focus™ addresses some of the challenges that students with autism face – challenges in cognition, motor skills, communication, social cognition, and creativity. The goal is to assist individuals in the development of skills necessary to become inclusive and contributing members of society.

The process of learning and performing a magic trick can :

  • Improve the child’s ability to follow simple and complex directions.
  • Improve a child’s gross and fine motor skills. Encourage the child to be sociable, flexible, and cooperative when playing and/or studying with other children.
  • Help the child recognize and implement the codes of social conduct, including the unwritten social rules and expectations of behavior that we all seem to know, but were never taught (the hidden curriculum).
  • Encourage the child to have meaningful conversation, recognize and respond to facial expressions, and improve the understanding and expression of emotion.
  • Encourage the child to understand different perspectives and the thoughts and feelings of others.
  • Provide positive social experiences.
  • Educate the child on the value of listening, giving and receiving compliments, giving appropriate criticism, and acknowledging they are “wrong” and learning from mistakes.

Introducing the Hocus Focus™ Analytics Scale – a performance-based assessment instrument developed to measure student outcomes in cognition, motor skills, communication, and social skills while developing creativity.

The Hocus Focus™ Analytics Scale is the result of two years of research and is the first assessment instrument developed to quantify learning through arts-integrated teaching methods. The paper, The Development and Psychometric Investigation of an Assessment Instrument for Educators, was accepted for presentation at the 2017 American Educational Research Association conference.