Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Michael Phelps and ADHD: A Success Story


Michael Phelps has been outstanding this year at the Rio 2016 Olympics. I believe he is the most decorated Olympian of all time.

What I recently learned is that Michael Phelps has been diagnosed with ADHD since he was 9 years old.

His mother, Debbie, who taught middle school for more than two decades, worked with Michael and his school to get him the extra help and attention he needed. When Michael struggled with behaviors and academics, his mother looked for ways to use his strengths and interests to find solutions. She helped him overcome his hatred of reading by giving him the sports section of the paper and books about sports to read. She got a math tutor that used word problems tailored to Michael's interests. She and Michael developed visual cues and signals to keep Michael aware of consequences of his behavior. When he was 10 she came up with the signal of making a "C" with her hand that stood for "compose yourself." Every time she saw him getting frustrated, she'd give him the sigh. She shared that she realized her really "got it" when he gave her the sign once when she got stressed making dinner!

Many people use physical activity to help control their ADHD. When you are physically active, your brain releases lots of neurotransmitters, which increases the attention system's ability to be regular and consistent by spurring the growth of new receptors in certain areas of the brain. This has many good effects like reducing the need for new stimuli and increasing alertness. (Michael Lara, MD in The Exercise Prescription for ADHD in CHADD's Attention magazine)

Michael Phelps has said that he found that swimming and competition helped him maintain his focus. Michael took something he loved and used it to shape his life. Here is a lesson where we can all benefit.


Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

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