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CARDS Cognition, Attention and Recall Drill Set Memory
Ages: 15-Adult   Grades: 10-Adult

Adults love these activities that use a deck of playing cards to develop memory.  Using a familiar deck of cards is inherently motivating and the activities offer numerous levels of challenge. 


  • Improve recall
  • Develop short-term and long-term memory
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The convenient pocket-size book has forty activities to train four types of memory: 

  • Short-Term—immediate memory and storage of information that requires further processing
  • Declarative Long-Term—retrieve stored information (e.g., facts, places, events)
  • Procedural Long-Term—recall learned routines through repetition
  • Prospective Long-Term—remember to do something in the future and at the correct time

The activities stimulate clients to recall and follow instructions.  Start with a pace that's comfortable for them and gradually increase the time requirements to develop automaticity.  The simultaneous exercise of auditory and visual memory skills with manipulation (motor skills) of the cards gives clients unique practice that helps them function in everyday life.   

Copyright © 2008

25 5" x 7" coated pages

My patient enjoyed completing the tasks in CARDS Memory and reported that he was teaching them to his spouse! After participating in the drill sets, I noticed improvements in the way he was able to recall information. I found CARDS Memory and CARDS Attention to be useful in varying healthcare settings.

Amanda Bray-Hooker, SLP
Apalachin, NY

  • From a clinical standpoint, it is important to identify specific areas of breakdown in memory performance to develop appropriate treatment strategies during rehabilitation (Sander, Nakase-Richardson, Constantinidou, Wertheimer, & Paul, 2007).
  • Evidence for the role of attention in prospective memory is provided by studies that have found a relationship between performance on prospective memory tasks and on tasks of attention and speed of processing (Mateer, Sohlberg, & Crinean, 1987; Schmitter-Edgecombe & Wright, 2004 as cited in Sander et al., 2007).
  • Both formal and informal measures of memory have a role in the rehabilitation process (Coelho, Ylvisaker, & Turkstra, 2005 as cited in Sander et al., 2007).
  • The training of general and specific personal compensatory strategies is an important functional approach to cognitive-communication intervention (Hartley, 1995).
  • Training in use of internal strategies is one of the major approaches to rehabilitation of executive or metacognitive dysfunctions (Hartley, 1995).
  • Rehabilitation in the area of prospective memory has great functional significance because this is the type of memory often required in everyday situations.  Prospective memory failures are the most frequently experienced type of memory failures reported by individuals with brain injuries (Mateer, Sohlberg, & Crinean, 1987).

CARDS Cognition, Attention and Recall Drill Set Memory incorporates the above principles and adheres to standards of professional practice.


Hartley, L.L. (1995). Cognitive-communicative abilities following brain injury: A functional approach. San Diego: Singular Publishing Group, Inc.

Mateer, C.A., Sohlberg, M.M., & Crinean, J. (1987). Perceptions of memory functions in individuals with closed head injury. Head Trauma Rehabilitation, 2, 79-84.

Sander, A., Nakase-Richardson, R., Constantinidou, F., Wertheimer, J., & Paul, D. (2007). Memory assessment on an interdisciplinary rehabilitation team: A theoretically based framework. American Journal of Speech Language Pathology, 16, 316-330.


Christy Yacono Evans, Deborah Schott, Katherine Romero-Davis, Katrina Kaiser, and Paul Galajda


Christy Yacono Evans, Deborah Schott, Katherine Romero-Davis, Katrina Kaiser, and Paul Galajda are speech-language pathologists who currently work in the acute inpatient/outpatient rehabilitation hospital setting.  They work with adults who have suffered cognitive, communication, and swallowing deficits as a result of neurological dysfunction.  The authors are particularly interested in using these memory exercises in the rehabilitation process.


Human memory is multidimensional and comprises several interrelated systems (Mahendra & Apple, 2007).  The memory types targeted in the exercises in this manual are often used to rehabilitate individuals with brain injuries.

The exercises are divided into four specific areas and are coded by card suits.  A long-term objective(s) is suggested for each area:

  • Hearts—short-term memory: The client will recall five to nine units of auditory information with or without compensatory strategies to maximize success with activities of daily living.  The client will recall up to four units of visual information with or without compensatory strategies to maximize success with activities of daily living.
  • Spades—declarative long-term memory: The client will retrieve stored information by recall or recognition to maximize success with activities of daily living.
  • Diamonds—procedural long-term memory: The client will retain knowledge of how to perform learned motor routines with repetition to maximize success with activities of daily living.
  • Clubs—prospective long-term memory: The client will independently recall visual and/or auditory information of an event or activity with or without prompts to maximize success with activities of daily living.

Using a deck of playing cards, each exercise targets one or more of these areas through auditory and/or visual modalities.  In addition, all of the exercises incorporate working memory—a pervasive cognitive skill.

Working memory has no time limitations, but its capacity is limited by the number of tasks that can be processed over any given time frame (Montgomery & Windsor, 2007).  Working memory requires active processing and is influenced by sustained attention (Schneider, 2007).  If you have clients with impaired attentional processes, you may want to address those deficits first. (See CARDS Attention, Kaiser et al., LinguiSystems, Inc., 2008.)

Daily living activities like the following require working memory:

  • recalling the phone options to make the appropriate selection when listening to a prerecorded voice message
  • reading comprehension
  • playing cards or board games

Short-term memory, or immediate memory, is a temporary storage space for information that frequently requires further processing (Brookshire, 1997).  Tompkins (1995) reports, "Short-term memory capacity is limited and decays rapidly unless refreshed through control processes, including rehearsal, elaboration, organization, or decision."

Daily living activities like the following require short-term memory:

  • recalling directions to a new location
  • recalling a dictated phone number
  • recalling a list of grocery items

Long-term memory is a permanent storage of knowledge and experiences over time, ranging from minutes to years and requiring continuous reorganization (Halper, Cherney, & Miller, 1991).  As new information is received, it is comprehended and encoded into long-term memory by linking it to permanently stored, long-term knowledge.  Over time, information is imbedded deeper into cortical tissue for permanent storage.  Long-term memory is a complex system that is "essentially limitless in size" (Tompkins, 1995).

One aspect of long-term memory is declarative memory, which involves the acquisition of facts (Squire, 1992 as cited in Baddeley, Wilson, & Watts, 1995).

Daily living activities like the following require declarative long-term memory:

  • recalling autobiographical information
  • recalling people, places, and events from a family vacation
  • recalling 911 in an emergency

Procedural memory, another aspect of long-term memory, is concerned primarily with motor skills (Matlin, 1988).  There is an automatic component in procedural memory tasks that allows for improvement through repetition (Halper, Cherney, & Miller, 1991; Fabiani, Low, Wee, Sable, & Gratton, 2006).

Daily living activities like the following require procedural memory:

  • performing a morning routine in the same sequence
  • driving
  • locking the door when leaving home

Prospective memory is an aspect of long-term memory that not only requires an individual to remember to do something in the future, but to remember to do it at the correct time (remember to remember).  In their 1987 study, Mateer, Sohlberg, and Crinean (as cited by Hartley, 1995) reported that individuals with brain injuries frequently have difficulty with prospective memory tasks.

Factors influencing prospective memory are the type of task and the time frame.  Memory failure is more common in demanding or interesting ongoing tasks and in tasks in which 10 seconds have elapsed between the reminder and the target time (Harris & Wilkins, 1982).

Daily living activities like the following require time-based, prospective memory:

  • making an unscheduled phone call prior to the end of a business day
  • giving a family pet its medication every 30 days

Daily living activities like the following require event-based, prospective memory:

  • taking prescribed medications when a preset alarm sounds
  • getting off at the appropriate bus stop when using public transportation

Daily living activities like the following require activity-based, prospective memory:

  • picking up the dry cleaning after work
  • turning off the stove after cooking

The memory exercises in this manual are intended to enhance direct intervention for improving memory.  There is a wide range of difficulty presented in these exercises.  Adapt any exercise as needed for your client's level of functioning (e.g., allow prompts, reduce the memory load of more difficult tasks, provide mnemonics and repetition).  

We hope that you will find these exercises both effective and easy to use in any setting.

Christy, Deborah, Katherine, Katrina, and Paul