The Value of Playing Cards

20 Jul
playing cards

playing cards

Before we had smart phones and iPods many of us remember playing cards when waiting any length of time with a group. Sometimes it is good to look at the old traditional card games because there is a reason why they had staying power.  Children still like playing them. Card games such as Go Fish, Rummy, Old Maid, Crazy 8 and UNO can meet a lot of different therapy needs as well as provide a recreational activity for disabled students to mix with non disabled students. You may remember we used a game of UNO in our “Circle of Friends Group” to work with a student who performed on academic grade level but was severely impacted socially by Autism.

Card games have the advantage of engaging a number of students of different ability levels within a structure. They provide lots of opportunity for modeling by peers in predictable interactions.  The use of card games provides a training ground to reinforce social skills some students need to develop in order to participate in a group and have a conversation. It also allows the peer group to interact with a disable student and see them as a person they can develop a friendship  and play with.

Our high needs students benefit from some preparation such as communication boards, video modeling and visual cue cards. Many of my students I work with  in the Life skills Programs  are working on skills such as maintaining focus with a group, staying on topic, realizing their turn, the turn of others, perspectives of others, and appropriate emotional control with unexpected events.  In addition, they may be working on vocabulary and following directions.

I have collected free downloads of some traditional card games.  I hope this will make it easier for some of your planning for next school year. Some of these have the advantage of using specific themed vocabulary.


There are some creative variations on the internet. However this particular game is under copyright so I didn’t feel I could post them.  The regular game is very useful for working on following directions.

This is a board that is a tech speak overlay but I just use the board without the device for my less verbal students.

Old Maid

I have used cards that come in pairs such as opposite cards, and plurals.    Just add a blank card that does not match with the others for the old maid.

I Have, Who Has

This is a fairly recent card game that seems to have a lot of potential for small groups.  Students need to maintain focus to stay with the group and participate.

Animals created by Ashley Hughes

Food by Ashley Hughes

Winter vocabulary by Kindergarten Squared

Synonyms by Dee Bibb

Halloween Vocabulary by Mandy Neal

Back to School Vocabulary by Simply Speech

Go Fish  communication board (pronouns) (plurals)   (Feelings)  (Pets)    (a variety of flash cards for vocabulary building.)

If you need help remembering the rules this is a good place to look them up.

15th Circle of Friends

20 May

This is a crazy time of year filled with extra meetings for children moving on to middle school and incoming early childhood children for the next  kindergarten class.  It doesn’t allow for  as  much preparation time.  So this session is a good contrast of what can go wrong when there isn’t time to think the details through.

The Circle Friends came together as usual for lunch.  You may remember that originally we allowed the circle friends to have an early lunch time so they could have more time to meet after eating their lunch.  Their classmates actually had recess first and then came in for lunch.  This had worked well up until this point.    This becomes an important detail the adults forgot.

The friends asked “Dee” if he would like to play jump rope or 4 square.  He chose jump rope.  Today we had a sunny day, which we hadn’t seen for a while.
The friends decided it would be great to go outside.  “D” didn’t like this idea.  He told them that you jump rope in the gym.  Apparently this was something new and we hadn’t prepared him for.   He was uneasy about going outside to jump rope.  He played outside regularly on non circle days so you wouldn’t have thought this would be a problem.  This is a persuasive group, and they got him to say he would go outside.  Leaving the room, he decided to head for  the gym doors.  However the group managed to go out the side doors on the way and just sorta carried him along with them.   He was still reluctant telling us we needed to use the gym, but he went with the group to the playground.   He made it to the playground and the group got the jump rope going.  He decided he would twirl.  It looked like he would settle in and everything would be all right.  Then within 10 minutes of being there  it happened.  The whistle blew for his classmates to come in for lunch.  Well routine took over reason and “D” decided he needed to line up too.  He didn’t buy into the idea  he already ate  his lunch and could stay outside.    I did get a bit of a video tape showing him twirling outside.  Maybe the tape will make him see he is able to jump rope outside as well.  I think this session is a reminder not to lose sight of the details and details matter to a child with autism.  Prior preparation can make a big difference.

12th and 13th Circles

30 Apr

I didn’t get a chance to post last week although we did meet.  We have approximately a chance for 5 more meetings before the end of the year.  Adult meeting schedules are starting to interfere at this time of year.  Thankfully things are going so well that less planning and structure is needed.

At the last meeting the students decided to attempt to teach 4 square.  We really didn’t know how well  “D” bounced a ball.  On the playground,  he was prone to throwing it at head level.    We decide that we would start by seeing how well he could bounce a ball between students.  He was now familiar with the group and the gym so we didn’t make a preview  video tape.

The adults of course have a plan beyond the  student wishes.   We want to be able to step back with less adult prompting.  One of the main goals was to get ‘D” interacting with peers without adult directions.   Hopefully, he will become comfortable interacting with this group as he moves up to middle school next school year.

For the 13 circle, everyone was present , including “D”.   He listened to the discussion at the lunch table but didn’t join in.  He knew we had a plan to go to the gym, so was busy eating.  Unfortunately he is a slow eater compared to the other students so we didn’t push conversation.  He also gets concerned if he hasn’t finished his lunch.

Amazingly we were able to round up a rubber ball and make it to the gym. We formed a circle and practiced passing the ball with a bounce through the middle of the circle.  “D” started out with head shots, but soon realized everyone was bouncing the ball first.   Soon he was into the activity like everyone else.  We then went to fast passing which meant you really had to keep your attention or get hit with the ball.   This led to some natural silliness as they tried to get the ball passed to an  unsuspecting student.  “D” stayed with the group through it all.  It was good to see he was flexible even if the rules changed a bit.  He added his own exclamations to the group and was  interactive.  We decided the ball passing was a success and we could move on to using the actual 4 square next time.   We had a few minutes left s ended the group by bringing out the jump ropes.