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Michael Phelps: A Golden Example

A while back, in one of the blog entries, I wrote about the fact, that despite the pessimistic predictions, children with ADD often turn into successful adults.

Now we could not have a clearer example of this brighter picture--Michael Phelps. Diagnosed at age 9 with ADD, he now is the Olympic champion with eight gold medals.

Shortly before the start of the games, Debbie Phelps, Michael's mother revealed that her son was diagnosed with ADD. She also told the story of how they overcame it.

She described Michael as an outgoing, athletic kid whose energy never seemed to run out. "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,'" she said.

But as she would later find out, there was another description that could and did apply. At age 9, his doctor diagnosed Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, which affects several million children in the U.S. Like many kids with ADHD, Michael's treatment was medication and behavior modification.

"I controlled what he was doing on the weekends and holidays and summer because I made sure there was a rigid schedule in the household," she said. Mrs. Phelps also realized that along with tight scheduling of Michael's time, swimming proved effective in calming his behavior.

By age 10, Michael was nationally ranked. Deborah Phelps watched her son, who couldn’t sit still at school, wait patiently for hours at a meet to swim a five-minute race. At 11, Michael was off Ritalin by his own choice and his coach, Bob Bowman, was already predicting greatness. Bowman, who still coaches Michael, told the family then that Michael would make the 2004 Olympics and break world records by the 2008 games. Phelps made it to the 2000 Olympics, four years ahead of Bowman’s prediction. The rest, as we have witnessed, is history.

Today, the Phelps name is an adjective, as in “phelpsian,” meaning "dominating in competition." Now, more than a decade after learning of her son's problem, Debbie is sharing her insights through a website aimed at the moms of children with ADD. You can find it at

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