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Kid Companions- Chewelry: Apr 21, 2010

April 21, 2010

Michael Phelps~ ADHD Did Not Stop Him

When Debbie Phleps, mom to Michael PHLEPS, the swimming sensation who dazzled the world at the Beijing Olympics, speaks of Michael as a young boy many parents can relate to the first part of her son’s life. "Never sat still, never closed his mouth, always asking questions, always jumping from one thing to another. But I just said, `He's a boy,'"

But he was not just being a boy, because at age 9, in fifth grade, her son's lack of focus and fidgety behavior, was diagnosed as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, ADHD.

In an interview by MICHAEL WINERIP in The New York Times, Debbie Phleps said that as a little boy, he asked 25 zillion questions, always wanting to be the center of attention. If he wasn’t zooming by on his big-wheel tricycle, he was swinging by on monkey bars.

With preschool, teachers complained: Michael couldn’t stay quiet at quiet time, Michael wouldn’t sit at circle time, Michael didn’t keep his hands to himself, Michael was giggling and laughing and nudging kids for attention.

In elementary grades, Michael would disturb other children and could not sit quietly nor focus on schoolwork. Michael was an attention seeker and he used to talk without even thinking once. His teachers used to call him an immature guy.

Michael ‘s mom, a teacher, noticed that he would be calmer if his activities were tightly organized like the swimming group he belonged to. The sport of swimming is very disciplined. I know very well as my three children have been on swim teams. Even though it is an individual sport, there is great camaraderie at practices and around the pool at swim meets. The swimmers feel they owe it to their swim team, their coach and to themselves to improve their personal best times by practicing daily and by living a healthy life.

My swimmers were driven to channel all their energies and stay focused to shave off those few precious seconds. Early morning practices and some days repeating the same thing after school burns a lot of pent up energy. Swimmers must make the most of every minute at school. With many weekend swim meets, daily practices meaning early bedtimes, swimmers do not want to end up with a lot of homework.  Swimmers must learn to organize and prioritize to survive!

For two years Michael was treated with medications, Ritalin, and behavior modification. “He had to go to the school nurse’s office to take a pill at lunch,” Debbie Phelps said, “and felt stigmatized. Out of the blue, he said to me: ‘I don’t want to do this anymore, Mom. My buddies don’t do it. I can do this on my own.”

By 11, Michael was managing his ADHD without medication. "When you look at the sport of swimming, it's very regimented. There's time management built into that component, there's set things you do sequentially," Debbie Phelps said.

Ms. Phelps watched the boy who couldn’t sit still at school sit for four hours at a meet waiting to swim his five minutes’ worth of races. At the Beijing Olympics, Michael won eight gold medals, breaking the 1972 record set by fellow American swimmer Mark Spitz.

For children with ADHD who do not have, the swimming, the teacher mom, the coaches, the behavior management programs and support... that Michael Phelps had,  professional help and medication should be considered because their lives and school work and their parents' lives and homework can be made much easier.

Do you know a child with ADHD who became more disciplined by adding a passionate activity to his life?

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