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International ADHD Conference 2023: Episode 2

Updated: Dec 28, 2023

Panel that says "What's wrong with me? Nothing at all"

The International Conference on ADHD 2023 in Baltimore was such a huge event that I opted to split it into a few articles so that I can be mindful of those with ADHD who will be reading this and keep the articles shorter so that they are easier to read without losing focus. Part 1 can be found by clicking here. So, without further ado, I will jump right into day 2.

Internation ADHD Conference 2023 Day 2: Organization, Resilience, and Connection

Going into day two, I really appreciated that they started the day a bit later. Considering the excitement of the first day, it was really hard for me to get to sleep right away so it was nice to be able to sleep in a bit more. So, after sleeping in and then going downstairs to get coffee, I went over to the conference right as the morning key note was about to start. As I was about to get ready to go into the meeting hall, I noticed someone walking down the far end of the hall. Realizing that the room numbers were hard to understand for the conference I decided to ask if they needed help. It ended up being none other than Jessica McCabe. She told me she was looking for the key note and so I walked her over there since I was heading there myself.

The key note speaker was Cassandra Aarssen, of Her presentation was truly inspirational and reflective of many of the experiences those of us with ADHD grow up with. Starting out as a child that was misunderstood and judged because of her behavior. She was never diagnosed with ADHD as a kid and so she went through her entire childhood thinking that there was something wrong with her. Eventually, she learned that her brain just worked differently, and like so many of us should, she embraced that difference and started her own company working with her different ways of thinking to help others find organization methods that work for their brains. And all this before she was even diagnosed with ADHD.

Panel with information on taking a new perspective on ADHD

I really liked that she was able to learn that her brain wasn't broken, it was just wired differently. And instead of working against it, she embraced it and owned her uniqueness. This really resonated with me because I truly feel that if we can learn to value our differences then we can learn to reframe our inner voice and start to find the value in our ADHD traits.

Find your Passion, Discover your Purpose

After the keynote I proceeded to find my way into the first seminar of the day, which was on resilience and ADHD.

Photo of a slide with colored blocks that spell out the word resilience.
Slide from the Resilience and ADHD Session

This session was a good lesson in my note taking skills as I was trying to listen, take photos of the slides, and take notes while chatting in the How to ADHD Discord group all at the same time. It really didn't help that the echo in the room made it really hard to hear sometimes. The session had a good message though, as it talked about different methods for helping to develop skills for building resilience, such as a solid support system consisting of friends and family, an ADHD coach, and therapy like that of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) which you can read more about in my series of articles starting here.

There is a lot I could talk about that I took away from this session, but I will save that for another blog article. Suffice it to say, the absolute key component to building resilience with ADHD is "Mindful Awareness". There is value to living life more mindfully. Being present in the moment helps us be more resilient because we are better able to question if our thoughts match reality.

After the Resilience and ADHD session was over, it was time for lunch. The conference offered a concession lunch, which on this day, I decided to try out. However, the lines were long and the lunch was less than desirable so I didn't eat much. I ended up attending a Lunch and Learn session hosted by Jessica McCabe and Caroline Maguire on Making Friends as an Adult with ADHD.

Making friends as an Adult with ADHD including Jessica McCabe and Caroline Maguire

This session was invaluable as it broached a topic that I know many of us with ADHD struggle with because we don't have the executive function to keep ourselves from interrupting people, or focus on what people are saying, or you know, text a person back when that texted you two weeks ago. I posted the video in the How to ADHD Discord group which you can access by becoming a Patreon supporter of the Channel.

After the presentation I waited around initially to talk to both of them together. But I think Jessica remembered me and so did Caroline from my first night when I complemented her on her book and so they asked if I would like to join them for lunch at Jimmy Johns. Little did I realize that we would also be joined by Dani Donovan, creator of "The Anti-Planner: How to Get Sh*t Done When you Don't Feel Like It", and Dusty Chipura, an ADHD Coach and influencer as well.

Lunch with Chris, Jessica McCabe, Marauder (one of the moderators of the How to ADHD Discord group), Caroline Maguire, Dusty Chipura, Dani Donovan, and Phillip.
Lunch with Chris, Jessica McCabe, Marauder (one of the moderators of the How to ADHD Discord group), Caroline Maguire, Dusty Chipura, Dani Donovan, and Phillip (props to him for having almost the same ADHD shirt as me by the way).

I can definitively say that this was one of the highlights of the entire weekend as I realized that I was able to hang out with all of these people that were essentially some of my heroes, and I was able to do it without masking at all. I was able to just be myself and nobody even gave it a second thought.

Slide that says Destimatization
Slide from Dani Donovan's presentation.

After Lunch, was Dani Donovan's presentation on ADHD Storytelling: Bridging the Gap Between Clinical Knowledge and Lived Experience. Dani's story really shed a lot of light on what information is available to clinicians vs. what our actual everyday lived experience is like for those of us with ADHD. My hope is that as those of us that advocate for getting more support for ADHD continue working with clinicians and providers, we can really continue to build a greater understanding of how ADHD affects our daily lives and garner more support from the world around us.

After Dani's presentation, I then met up with Chris O'Hagan again and we both attended the session on Unwrapping RSD, presented by Dr. William Dodson and Beth Bardeen. This Session was interesting in that it balanced out the clinical side of Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria and how symptoms present themselves and the personal side in how the symptoms feel to those of us who deal with it on a day-to-day basis. It also presented tips on managing the symptoms and also how to talk to your doctor about them. RSD is not yet in the DSM-5 and yet it is widely documented and well researched.

After this session Chris and I decided to attend a fun improv session where we basically got in a circle with a bunch of ADHDers and got to have fun acting out pre-defined exercises in improv. Improv can be very beneficial for those of us with ADHD as it allows us to not only use our natural gifts of impulse and creativity, but also exercises our brains to help build our working memory skills so we can think quickly and recall information faster. After this panel Chris and I decided to get dinner, but, in true ADHD fashion (you didn't think I'd go a whole day without having at least one massive ADHD snafu, did you?) I managed to set my phone down without realizing it and walk off without it. So, I then went on a frantic mission to find my phone. I first checked the conference room where the RSD session was held. My phone was not there. I then remembered that I have my Tiles (which I highly recommend for anybody with ADHD for this very reason) which allowed me to ring my phone by pressing a button on one of my tiles. I then walked around the area listening for the ringer on my phone. As I approached the improv room (which apparently continued on after Chris and I left) someone came out holding my loudly ringing phone. As everybody in the improve session was watching me, I valiantly took a bow to accept my encore applause from my audience.

After I found my phone, I went back to the hotel restaurant where I had left Chris, but he was nowhere to be found. As such, I went up and purchased a bunch of books to add to my library and once again met up with Caroline Maguire and had her sign a copy of her book "Why Will No One Play With Me". What I really loved though is that she signed the book to my son with the words "We write our own stories. And I hope this book helps you write yours." I have already read her book and listened to the Audio book as well. I cannot recommend it enough as it has a lot of strategies to help neurodivergent children (and adults alike) gain strategies to help us learn to communicate and make friends successfully in life.

After I had sufficiently increased the size of my library, I decided that it was time to eat and spend the evening reflecting, so I went back to my hotel room and ordered Uber Eats for dinner that night.

As I began writing these articles I had no idea that I would end up having so much to say about the conference. But, as I'm seeing that this article is already getting up there in length, I don't want to keep writing into day 3 and beyond. So, it looks like this will be a three-part series. So, until next time everybody!

If you find this article interesting and want to learn more or have a comment, feel free to leave a comment below. Or better yet, come talk to us about it on our Discord server! We have a lot of great people who love to talk about ADHD, neurodivergence, nerdy stuff, and all the other things. We've also got a lot of links to resources for further reading and personal growth.

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