I was sitting with some friends the other night and we began to share on the Olympics. The conversation turned to Michael Phelps and his accomplishments. One of my friends began to share what he had heard on TV about Michael's Attention Deficit. "Michael used the lanes and lines to focus his energy. The pool was a contained space for him and he could let his energy out swimming within those boundaries and feel relaxed."
I found an article from Bloomberg today that addressed his younger years at school saying:
" My mom and I joke that I had a teacher, I think in middle school, who told me I'd never be successful,'' Phelps said after breaking Spitz's record.
Phelps was diagnosed in elementary school with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, described by the U.S. National Institutes of Health as among the most common mental disorders in children. He took Ritalin as treatment until abruptly telling his mother that his friends didn't use medicine and he'd handle it himself. "
In a post about Michael Phelps on The ADDer World Blog, the writer, Bryan Hutchinson, refers to Hyper-focusing as a way in which those with ADHD can intensify their concentration - and in this case, what Michael Phelps used to help him accomplish his incredible Gold medal and world record goals. Bryan goes on to say that all the attention of President Bush and the expectations to win medals was really only an added advantage for his ADHD condition:
"The reality that many fail to comprehend about someone with ADHD is that all such pressure is simply more stimulation – it is natural Ritalin, if you will, but far more effective! Whereas Ritalin helps release someone from their single minded, hyper focused and seemingly distracted thoughts, mental pressure of an intense nature helps one increase their Hyper Focus on whatever has captured their mind’s attention."
I see in Michael, the possibilities that lie in every student we work with if they believe they can do incredible things. For Michael, I am sure, there was an instinctive desire to compete and accomplish something big, but there was also a mother who instilled the values of possibility and effort. There was a coach that pushed him beyond his physical limits to give "just that much more". These influences created a young man that accomplished greatness.
As you start another school year, think about the students that you will touch as a teacher, assistant, a specialist, or parent. I hope we can all see the potential in their lives. That is what the No Limits in "No Limits to Learning" is all about.
You can read what Debbie Phelps has to say about being an ADHD Mom on the online community group she started, ADHD Moms: A place for the moms of children with ADHD.
All the best to you!
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