Making Game Nights Work

Kristin Neva avatar

by Kristin Neva |

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It feels like a win when we can figure out how to include my husband, Todd, in game nights. He is paralyzed because of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), so any game that requires writing or moving is a challenge. That would include most games, but we can make some work better than others.

We used to play Guesstures, a game that requires acting like charades. Todd couldn’t act, of course, but he could guess the words, playing on the team that was at a disadvantage to make the teams more evenly matched. But now Todd’s voice has gotten so soft that we can’t hear him above the ruckus.

Apples to Apples works really well, and is one of our favorites. A judge lays down a green apple card with an adjective, and each player plays a red apple card with a noun. The judge picks the red apple that best matches the green apple, and the player who played that card gets a point. To include Todd, I purchased cardholders, and he tells me which card to play.

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Todd’s sister sent a Christmas gift for the kids, a new game called Hotseat. The person in the Hotseat draws a card and reads a question aloud. For example: “If I were a reality TV star, what would my show be called?” The other players write down what they think the person would say. Everyone has to guess which answer is the real one. I wasn’t sure how the game would work with Todd, because he can’t write, and if I wrote for him I would know his answer. But that’s what I ended up doing. Todd whispered his answers to me, I wrote them down and added them to the pile of answers. It gave me a slight advantage because I knew his answer wasn’t the real one, but it didn’t make that much of a difference. The point of the game is to have fun and laugh, and we had plenty of both.

game nights | ALS News Today | Kristin and Todd Neva play board games at a table with their family

Kristin and Todd Neva play the game Hotseat with their children, Isaac and Sara, and Kristin’s brother, Steve. (Courtesy of Kristin Neva)

We also like playing Scrabble with my brother. Steve, Todd, and I are fierce competitors. We challenge words and we play defensively so we don’t set the other players up so that they can play off triple-letter or triple-word places.

The biggest challenge of playing Scrabble for Todd is that he can’t move his letters around on his tile holder to think of different words to play. We once made a rule that no one could move their letters around, but it put my brother and me at too much of a disadvantage. It was frustrating for everybody, including Todd, and he didn’t need the help anyhow. Todd has learned to compensate for his disability. He moves the letters around in his mind just fine and then he tells me which tiles to place on the board.

On Christmas Day, I beat the guys for the first time in more than a year. It’s a rare moment, so I sticky-tacked the score sheet to the inside of my pantry door alongside drawings my kids made and school pictures of my nieces. I’ll hang on to that victory and the sweet, simple memories of playing family games this holiday season.


Note: ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ALS News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ALS.




Buenas tardes.

Mi marido esta en la situacion.Quisiera saber que tecnologia utilizan para la comunicacion como TODD.Muchas Gracias

Kristin Neva avatar

Kristin Neva

Todd uses a headmouse to use his computer but he can still talk. Here's a link to some info. about communication with ALS. There are devices like an eye-gaze. One friend with ALS who didn't have time to order a device because the disease progressed so quickly use a low tech solution. He had a laser pointer attached to glasses frames with a rubber band and then pointed at a print-out of an alphabet to spell words.

Ann Noyes avatar

Ann Noyes

Try also CodeNames for family Game Night. Good for 4 or more people. Nothing is timed or shouted. I want my team to guess certain cards, which each have a word on them. My clue is one word, hoping to link many words together. my team can confer, and then one person touches the card(s) chosen. The other team has different words they give clues for and guess. Teams and brain power and creativity!

Kristin Neva avatar

Kristin Neva

Thanks for the recommendation!

Maggie B avatar

Maggie B

Cheers to more fun and games in 2022!

Kristin Neva avatar

Kristin Neva

Thanks for commenting! Cheers!

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