Speed! and Special Needs - Strengthens Working Memory and Processing Speed

How does your skip-counting card game Speed! work for children with special needs? This is a question I occasionally receive and up until now have not had a good answer. Special needs is not my area of expertise. What I do know is that children love to play this game because it is fun. They play to win and want to play more not realizing that by playing they are memorizing the answers to the multiplication tables.

During the course of demonstrating the game to a multitude of people at homeschooling conventions I have met two different special needs experts that absolutely love the game. Dr. Carol Brown at Equipping Minds holds a doctorate in education and has more than 35 years of experience working with students. She has a program that works to strengthen cognitive abilities of both children and adults. Faith Berens, MEd is a reading specialist and special needs consultant for HSLDA.

Both of these special needs experts explained how Speed! helps to strengthen working memory, and processing speed. (Here is a video of the game being played.) When kids first learn to play the Three Speed! deck for example, they may not know how to skip-count by three. That doesn't matter because the numbers are written on each card. In the image below, the bubble chain is colored into the number 18, because the card is an 18. Kids can look at the card and see that the next number in the sequence is 21 and the previous number in the sequence is 15. These are the two acceptable plays on an 18. Because the winner is the first player to get rid of all his/her cards, kids work to improve their memory. After all, it's much faster eliminate the step of checking the card to see what's next and play a card based on memory. The more often kids play the game, the less often they will need to refer to the number chain to determine what comes next or previous. It's the repetition of play that helps improve memory.

It's the desire to win that helps improve processing speed. Processing speed is the time it takes a person to react to a visual, auditory or movement input. In Speed! there are no turns. As soon as a player realizes one of his/her cards can be played, he/she may play it. Players may react to the visual number on the card. If someone is counting out loud, they may react to the auditory stimuli. They may also react to the movement of the other player placing a card on the center pile. Regardless, they quickly learn that to win, they should go fast.

With that being said at least one of the education experts pointed out that if the stress of the race is too much for a participant, the game can be altered to institute turns and slow the pace. Processing speed will still be improved and when the child is ready, the rules can be changed to eliminate turns.

Both Dr. Carol Brown and Faith Berens MEd compared Speed! to games like Set, Blink and Spot It which they commonly play during therapy sessions to improve visual processing, auditory processing and working memory skills.

I am so excited to relay this message to you and hope that whether you work with special needs children or not you will give Speed! a try. Playing this game is a fun mental workout for both children and adults. The Three-Speed! deck may seem easy, but the Seven-Speed! deck is a challenge for most adults. We can all benefit from some brain exercise.

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