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Magic act nothing short of amazing for teen
By Ann Piccininni | Daily Herald Correspondent

Parents Cathy and Omar Rivas flank their son, Trent, who has become skilled in performing magic.


Courtesy of Cathy Rivas

Trent Rivas performs magic at a pizza party at Asbury Court in Des Plaines.


Courtesy of Cathy Rivas

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Published: 8/13/2008 12:04 AM

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For Trent Rivas, a 19-year-old man from Des Plaines who has struggled since birth with a debilitating brain disorder, nothing could be more magical than magic.

And the residents at Asbury Court, a Des Plaines independent living and retirement facility, could not be more enchanted with the wondrous feats they've seen Rivas perform.

"It's a good audience," said Eric Haugan, Asbury Court resident services manager.

Haugan said Trent's mother, Cathy, contacted Mary Eichenfeld, activity director, to suggest the idea of bringing her son's magic act to the residents.

Residents at Asbury Court are regularly treated to a variety of entertainers, from guitarists, to clowns, to singers, Haugan said.

In July, Trent performed his first magic show at Asbury, when he got on stage before about 60 residents at a pizza party. In early August, he was asked to return to perform for a different set of residents.

Cathy Rivas said Trent was more than happy to oblige. In fact, he's currently scheduled for two more performances at Asbury over the coming months.

"He loves it," she said. "He practices it morning, noon and night. That's how he got so fabulous at it."

Trent was born with a rare congenital brain disorder known as agenesis of the corpus callosum. The disorder, for which there is no cure, interferes with communication between the two hemispheres of his brain. His mother said he also has been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder.

"Trent has been in special education his entire life," she said. He has regular visits with medical professionals who specialize in neurology and psychology. He also sees an audiologist.

He has progressed to the cognitive and developmental level of an average 4- or 5-year-old, she said. "There are specific ways he can learn," said Cathy. "That's with repetition."

But there's one area where he excels beyond all reasonable expectations: magic. It's his successful efforts to circumvent the obstacles he's been dealing with that she and the residents at Asbury find astounding.

When he was 12 or 13, she said, she took him to see a magic show.

He was transfixed. He watched the magician seemingly put a sword through his mother's neck.

When they got home, he got a video of a magic act. And he watched.

"That's exactly how he learned, with video," said Cathy. "He loved to watch TV and act out videos."

Cathy said she is exploring the idea of establishing a foundation for children with this disorder. And, she said, she's grateful for the help she and her family have received.

"I've had the support of a lot of people in the community," she said.