Executive Function Bingo, by Heidi Indahl
Making decisions and organizing time is hard for all kids (and many adults). Kids with ADHD, autism, and other neurodivergence struggles can wander around for hours with nothing to do, despite the fact that there are dozens of options available. Decision making fatigue and overwhelm are real!
At the beginning of the summer, our PCA worker took Lucie to the library where she was presented with a Reading Bingo board. I’m sure many of you are familiar with the concept. She had to choose things like “A Nonfiction Book” or “An Author Whose Last Name Starts With B” or “A Book Without Words”. This bingo board took on a hyper focus of obsession while she searched days and days for the perfect books so that she could earn the coveted blackout prize.
Around the same time, we were preparing her to meet a new baby brother. We needed to teach her how to safely interact with him and try to head off those impulsive and intrusive choices her brain can sometimes trend towards. Seeing her response to reading bingo, our PCA made her an “Aaron Bingo” board. It included things like, “Read him a book” and “Help fold diapers” and “Hold him with a big helper”. That last one being a reminder every time she read it that she needed a buddy to pick up the baby!
We weren’t sure how she would respond in the absence of a clear prize system (although we were prepared to create one if necessary), but the endeavor turned out to be an overwhelming success. We kept her bingo board in her to-do basket (a basket of individual projects she can work on and books she is reading) and when she thought about doing something with baby, she went right to her list.
A bingo board can offer as few as four or as many skills as needed depending on the age and abilities of the child. It can also be done with pictures for non readers. Perhaps the morning routine could be laid out in the shape of a bingo board, allowing the child an easily accessible list to refer to with practice (and flexibility) in choosing what to do next.
Since the original Aaron Bingo, we have also created a Self-Care Bingo, A Fun with A Buddy Bingo, and a Schoolwork Bingo. When she finishes one bingo card she gets to pick which one she will do next. For these larger bingo boards, there are always squares that say things like “Mom’s Choice” or “Dad’s Choice”. I made all of our cards using a template on Canva, but any word processing program can make a grid or you could even use a whiteboard and tape to make a changeable board.
We now see our girl spending more time thinking about what she should be doing, leaving less time for decisions that involve things she should not be doing! She is wandering less and even asking for things like, “Can we clip my fingernails?” (Self-Care Bingo).
I definitely did not see that day coming any time soon!
Heidi is a country living Catholic mama from Southeast Minnesota. She and her husband homeschool and raise seven living children on 8 acres of grass and mud puddles (plus a house). You can read her blog atwww.workandplaydaybyday.com.