“The ‘Who Am I?’ Game That’s Ideal for Neurodivergent Brains”

I played a simple yet rousing guessing game recently that I kept thinking would be great for my students with ADHD and other learning differences.

The game has many versions and names, including “Who Am I?” and Guess the Famous Person. We simply know it as the Tape Game. It’s sort of like HedBanz, but also a bit like Twenty Questions. Players ask one another yes/no questions to try to guess the identity of the mystery person whose name has been taped to their foreheads.

Not only is this game easy to engage in, but the only supplies needed are painter’s tape and a permanent marker. (For better contrast, a neon color tape and black marker would be best.) Read on to learn how to play — and why this game is perfect for neurodivergent minds.

How to Play the “Who Am I?” Game (aka the Tape Game)

  1. Put a piece of painter’s tape (about three inches long) on each player’s forehead.
  2. On the tape, write the name of a famous person or character that the tape wearer would be able to guess. Think well-known celebrity, actor, athlete, movie character, politician, historical figure, etc.
  3. Everyone stands or sits in a circle. The tape-wearer can only ask yes/no questions to try to guess the name on their forehead. If the answer to the question posed is yes, the tape-wearer gets to ask another question. If the answer is no, the next player takes a turn either asking questions or guessing the identity on their forehead.
  4. Players can rip their tape off (triumphantly) when they’ve guessed the correct answer.

[Read: The Best Board Games for Kids with ADHD]Here’s an example of the Tape Game in real time:

Tape wearer #1, who doesn’t know that the name Lizzo is written on his head: Am I female?
Audience: Yes.
Tape wearer #1: Am I an actress?
Audience: No.

Tape wearer #2, who doesn’t know that the name Bernie Sanders is written on his head: Am I alive?
Audience: Yes.
Tape wearer #2: Am I a politician?
Audience: Yes.
Tape wearer #2: Am I liberal?
Audience: Yes.
Tape wearer #2: Am I Joe Biden?
Audience: No.

Tape wearer #1: Am I a singer?
Audience: Yes.
Tape wearer #1: Am I Taylor Swift?
Audience: No.

Tape wearer #2: Am I Bernie Sanders?
Audience: Yes!
[She rips off the tape and enjoys watching others flail with their guesses.]

[Read: 15 Clever Gift Ideas for Kids with ADHD]

Tape wearer #1: Do I play an instrument?
Audience: Yes.
Tape wearer #1: Am I Lizzo?
Audience: Yes!
[Off goes the tape!]

What is particularly funny are the facial expressions, inadvertent comments, and minor disputes that arise when answering questions. The audience or players might disagree on fundamental details like age, nationality, or supernatural powers, which causes confusion in the person trying to guess the name Baby Yoda or soccer legend Pelé on their head.

Why The “Who Am I?” Game is Great for Kids with ADHD and Learning Differences

For My ADHD Students

This game promotes concentration, awareness, language processing, working memory, and self-regulation.

  • Players must carefully attend to other players’ responses to their questions. They need to notice, for example, if there’s a hesitation before a response, which offers important insight into the secret character. (This happened to me when I had E.T. on my head and I asked if my person was male).
  • Players have to remember all the clues they’ve collected and organize their thinking to accommodate new information. (Wait, now I’m hearing that I’m not a human!)
  • Players have to stop themselves from blurting out other players’ secret identities or giving unnecessary hints — unlike my friend who couldn’t help herself and pantomimed pointy ears when my husband’s character was Spock.

For My Autistic Students

This game taps into perspective-taking and gestalt principles.

  • Assigning an identity to a player isn’t about selecting an obscure person. (It’s no fun that way.) The fun is in selecting someone in their purview – which requires some thought about the player’s background, age, and other factors. I probably wouldn’t write down Nelson Mandela for an 8-year old or Eminem for an 80-year old.
  • Players have to think “big picture” — not the shades of nuance and myriad exceptions — when answering yes/no questions from other players. Yes, Oprah has technically been paid to write, but she is not primarily known to be a writer. So, if someone with Oprah on their forehead asks, “Am I a writer?” I need to know that a “yes” answer would lead that guesser down a very different path.

For My Language-Disordered Students

This game is great for semantic categorization skills and lexical development.

  • Players start their yes/no questions with broad categories like gender, race, and profession to further narrow their categories. (Don’t start off by listing all the most handsome actors, like my husband did: “Am I Brad Pitt? George Clooney? Idris Elba?”)
  • Players develop important vocabulary so they can ask if they are fictional or nonfictional, an athlete, or infamous. The teacher or game leader can target morphosyntactic skills such as verb conjugations (“Does she…?” not “Do she…?”), subject-verb inversions (“Am I…? not “I am…?”), modal verbs (“can, do, would, could”), etc. For similar but different reasons, this would be great for English language learners as well.

Another great feature of this game is its adaptability to accommodate a range of abilities. Taping images or stickers to the forehead (instead of simply writing over the tape) is a suitable option for players who are non-readers or for students with significant cognitive and/or communication delays. If the guesser has an image of a dolphin on their forehead, for example, other players will have a visual reference to help guide their responses.

For all the older people like me, the game seems to highlight memory issues to a comedic level. Some of us forget all the information by the time our turn resumes. Personally, I draw a blank on the name of every celebrity known to humankind. Many of us do not know the icons that kids assume we do, such as the Minecraft character Enderman that was never correctly guessed by an older woman (ahem, me). For these reasons, I believe this game could be made much more pleasant and less humiliating by offering all manner of gestures, sound effects, rhyming words, quotes, lifelines, phone-a-friends, and multiple-choice answers. I’ll work on a revision of the rules pronto!

Games for Kids with ADHD and LD: Next Steps

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