The Madison ADHD Open Space 2024: After-Action Report

The logo and announcement for the ADHD Open Space.
The logo and announcement for the ADHD Open Space.

The Good, The Wow, and the Lovely.

The ADHD Open Space was an illuminating and joyful experience. The Open Space event model works particularly well for Neurodivergent people.

There was no set schedule or overwhelming expectations. It flowed seamlessly throughout the day as we talked and connected on topics important to us because we decided what topics to cover.

Personally, I have trauma and to be honest difficulty trusting people-but this event felt safe and there were quiet rooms throughout the venue if anyone needed time on their own.

Not least important were the deep friendships that bloomed from sharing our experiences and supporting one another. The world as it is, is not made for us. That is why community and collaboration are absolutely imperative. We need each other, if only to know that we are not alone.

— ADHD Open Space attendee

When we all arrived, there was not much there.

There were a few things, mind you:

  • A table full of notebooks, stickers, pens and pencils, fidget toys
  • Some fruit and pastries and easy-access to coffee, tea, and more.
  • Lots of empty tables, as well as a table with markers, large pink sticky notes, and little tabs of blue tape.
  • Four principles and one law listed on one side of a long whiteboard, and a weirdly non-specific timeline on the other side, with no classes, sessions, topics, or anything else posted anywhere.

Facilitator’s note: This is pretty much the way I start every Open Space, and usually there’s more than a few people who are nervous about the amorphous schedule.

This time? A couple of attendees said they were a little nervous, but not in any significant way. This was the first indication that yes, Open Space structures and ADHD brains work well together.

Five minutes after I invited people to propose sessions for the day, the board looked like this:

And then we started talking, sharing, coming up with ideas, sharing books, showing each other things that we used and did to deal with our ADHD as functioning adults.

When one attendee arrived a bit late, he apologized, only to have us point to Principle 2: whenever it starts is the right time.. He quickly put a couple more sessions on the board, which morphed during the day as the conversations did.

In the end, here’s what subjects were proposed and talked about:

  • What are your fave books, podcasts, etc. about ADHD?
  • Overstimulation vs. Understimulation: which is happening, and how do you know?
  • ADHD & Trauma: are they related?
  • Would you go to a yoga class for ADHD? What would that look like?
  • Externalizing Executive Functions with Games & Chance
  • ADHD Community Organizing (local ND group?)
  • Is what I’m interested in/feeling real? Or is it ADHD?
  • How to manage money with ADHD.
  • Workplace Accommodations
  • How to “come out” about ADHD with employers/co-workers
  • Tools and strategies: meal kits, calendars, etc
  • Learning new hobbies with hyper focus, aka “How I learned to Crochet”
  • Organizing all the things: household, tools, paperwork, etc. when you have “object blindness”
  • “It’s not an excuse, it’s an explanation.” Navigating thru difficult conversations.
  • Rejection sensitivity in partnerships.
  • ADHD & Clutter: process for deciding what to keep/get rid of.
  • Body Doubling.
  • How we interpret other people and our ideas about them
  • Meds: 🙂 or 🙁 ?
  • Neurotypical misinterpretation

And these were proposed, but we didn’t have time:

  • Physical health & ADHD
  • Symptoms and real life examples of adhd: why depression, anxiety, OCD, etc. are common
  • What are some strategies to help me do the thing? Also: how can I do less, and which less should I do?

The Closing Circle was emotional and validating.

In open space events, the closing circle is a time to acknowledge each others contributions throughout the day. Some people highlight particular sessions they found beneficial, or thank individuals who said or did something during the day that resonated or benefited them.

Others are still processing the huge amount of information, communication, and connection that has run through the day, but they are still present, still seen and acknowledged by the group.

One person said something that made me, as the facilitator, get all warm and buttery inside:

“I’ve always wanted to be in a club. But I’ve tried joining clubs, and they never feel the way I expected them to. I want to be around a bunch of people who are interested in and understand a thing, and we all talk about it together…this, today, felt the way I’d always wanted a club to feel.”

The Fourth Principle of Open Space: When it’s over, it’s over.

It was a privilege and a joy to be able to hold that space for professionals with ADHD and those around them. While Serendipity Labs West Madison was incredibly generous in hosting us, it came to a point where we had to leave. As it said on the board: You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.

But before we left, there were concrete plans to meet together monthly for an hour or two at local libraries. There was talk of an ADHD Open Space discord, both for the in-person attendees and those who weren’t able to make it.

All of which reminded me of one of the unofficial principles of Open Space, What happens at the Open Space…goes everywhere. We came out of this event with new friends, new ideas, and best of all, new possibilities for continuing the connection in the future.

You can learn more about the ADHD Open Space at the website, . You can email for more information about these kinds of events as well as strategies for functioning as an ADHD adult in a neurotypical world.

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