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The Problem With Saying Someone Is 'Not Playing With a Full Deck'

I hate the term “not playing with a full deck.” Usually it’s a phrase used when referring to a person living with a mental health or developmental disability. I hate it for many reasons, but among them is the fact that it is the exact opposite of what it means.

Let me explain.

Imagine you have a deck of cards. Each card represents a thought or word you might say. The joker represents the word you want to say.

If you have 10 cards and are asked to find joker, it’s easy enough right? You can find your words well. When we are stressed, we have more on our minds. So imagine having a deck of 50 cards (words/thoughts): find the joker. It’s a little more difficult but doable.

Now imagine someone hands you five or 10 decks of cards. Find the joker. Not easy at all. For someone who has difficulty filtering out extra sensory information, someone who is dealing with voices or intrusive thoughts, someone living with extreme mind states, or someone with any other of array of mental health challenges, this is a real problem.

People with these challenges often come up with fantastic ways to compensate and use their different mind as a strength. At the same time, they might take some extra time to answer a question. Their words might not make as much sense at first. They might have to ask the same question a few times. They may even struggle to talk at all.

Is it because they are “not playing with a full deck” or don’t have the capacity to understand? Absolutely not. Patience goes a long way. So does giving time for a response, offering other means of communication, and being aware that they might be in an even better place to draw connections than most. Playing with 10 cards or a deck of cards is cool. You can do some pretty cool things with five or 10 decks as well.

Image via Thinkstock.