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How Play Cards One-Handed: Easy Adaptive Equipment

written by: Anne Vize • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 8/2/2012

So how do you play a game of cards if you can only use one hand, and your budget is not huge? Simple! You look in your bathroom and use what is available. This article details how to make adaptive equipment using what is around you everyday.

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    Scenarios of Decreased Hand Control

    Some children require adaptive equipment to help them complete tasks and activities that they would like to do but cannot manage independently. An item of adaptive equipment is simply a tool that allows a person to complete a task that they would otherwise either not be able to do at all, or they would require intervention from another person to complete it. There are many types of disabilities that can mean a child may need adaptive equipment. In this article we will be focusing on disabilities that affect hand function and card-game playing and how to make adaptive equipment designed to help.

    • Children with cerebral palsy sometimes have hand function that does not allow strong and controlled grip on objects to be maintained. Their grip may be too firm, too soft, or it may fluctuate and change.
    • Children with very low muscle tone may find it hard to control their finger muscles for an extended period of time as fatigue can reduce their fine control.
    • Children with muscular dystrophy find it hard to engage their hand and finger muscles during a game as they do not have the ability to initiate a grip or hold an object firmly.
    • Children with poor fine motor control may be able to hold an object but may not be able to manipulate and control the object easily; they may drop it or lose control of it.
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    Making Adaptive Equipment the Easy Way

    Making adaptive equipment is easy--start with the task you wish to perform and think carefully about the requirements. Look at the parts of the body normally used for the task, and think about how else it can be performed. Break the task down into its component parts and think about each one as a separate stage. This is called doing a task analysis--some children may be independent at some stages of a task and only need adaptive equipment for the other stages.

    In this case, the task is playing a game of cards. The task is to:

    1. Shuffle the cards; the teacher or another student can do this.
    2. Hold a small number of the cards in the hands faced toward the student.
    3. Select one card at a time and place it into a pile in the table
    4. Follow the rules of the game
    5. Participate in a sporting manner

    As you can see, most steps are able to be done by a student or done in a different way. The tricky part is the card-holding for a child with a physical disability affecting hand function. The solution--use a nail brush! You know, those little plastic numbers lurking in the bathroom in most houses with lots of nice bristles on them? Turn the brush upside down and place it flat on the table. Slot the cards into the brush so they can be seen by the student. The student can then use their hands just to select the cards (reducing fatigue) or can gesture to a card so another helper can take it out for them. This increases independence and promotes direct involvement in the game more readily--and you've shown how to make adaptive equipment all for the price of a simple nail brush!