Michael Phelps ADHD is not an attention deficit

To much of the ADHD community, Michael Phelps’s phenomenal swimming at the Bejing Summer Olympics is a beacon of pride and hope.  For all the advances in diagnosing and treating ADHD, it remains greatly stigmatized.  In chat rooms and bulletin boards people post items like “ADHD is not a disability” as a way of giving support to those who are living with it.  Yet, after we watch Michael Phelps, his fierce determination and single-minded focus, it is clear that even the name Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder falls short in describing just what ADHD is.  Clearly Michael Phelps has no shortage of attention!

Many people have no idea that Michael Phelps has ADHD, yet he hasn’t kept it a secret.  In an August 13, 2008 TimesOnline article, his mother is quoted as saying, “In kindergarten I was told by his teacher, ‘Michael can’t sit still, Michael can’t be quiet, Michael can’t focus.’  I said, maybe he’s bored.  The teacher said that was impossible. “He’s not gifted,” came back the reply. “Your son will never be able to focus on anything.”

How many people with ADHD are told just that – you’ll never be able to focus on anything!  Obviously after Michael Phelps’s summer of 2008 performance, it’s clear that ADHD does not have to stop you from focusing on and reaching your dreams.

Today let’s take a page from Michael’s book and channel our passions.  If we do, imagine what we can accomplish.  As his coach, Bob Bowman, says, “One of the things I call Michael is the motivation machine.  Bad moods, good moods, he channels everything for gain. He’s motivated by success, he loves to swim fast and when he does that he goes back and trains better. He’s motivated by failure, by money, by people saying things about him … just anything that comes along he turns into a reason to train harder, swim better. Channeling his energy is one of his greatest attributes.”

Congratulations Michael on your gold bonanza.  And thank you for providing the ADHD community a role model that shatters all of our sterotypes!

Now it’s your turn, what motivates you to succeed?

Jan 2011  Update:

Sometimes it’s the “little” people who are ADHD heros.  We salute Edge coaching client, Rory Manson, who talked with CNN about how ADHD coaching has helped her succeed in school.  Her hope is by sharing her story, other students with ADHD will see how getting a coach can help them succeed and reach their goals.

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25 Responses

  1. Dan
    | Reply

    I couldn’t agree more. Michael Phelps is a constant reminder that us folks with AD/HD can win a lot of races, figuratively and literally. He is an inspiration!!!

  2. Dharmesh
    | Reply

    “Do not underestimate anyone” – you never know what gift one possess…..

  3. Danielle
    | Reply

    My son is 7 and is suffering bad self esteem from his school telling him he will not amount to much. Every time Michael Phelps is on tv I drag him iinto the living room and show him what can be acheived. ADHD is not a deficit in my opinion but an addition in people. These kids have something extra that ordinary folk do not have and I wolud not want it any other way!!

  4. cest moi
    | Reply

    When I was a young student, all my notebooks were blank, I hardly did any homework and my daydreaming always occupied my boring moments. My daydreams even continued from the last episode of my last one. I was expelled in Grade 7. It was in a new school where I competed against other schools in oratory, declamation , impromptu speaking where I found myself getting all the golds and first places. It was amazing! Yet I hardly coped with school–I did read a lot though. IT was later on when I discovered it was probably ADHD that I had. I am from Asia where there is little sympathy for these mental conditions. Hurrah for Michael Phelps and others like him.

  5. […] The Edge Foundation blog features a great post about how Michael Phelps proves ADHD is not attention deficit! […]

  6. Betsy Conron
    | Reply

    My 11 year old adorable son has ADHD. I’d be happy if he just focused long enough in class to hear the homework assignment! I suppose if one little boy with ADHD can grow up to be the Olympic swimming champ, my little guy can find something that fires him up enough to hold his attention!

  7. Margo King
    | Reply

    I congradulate Michael Phelps on his achievements. People like him inspire us to continue. I was diagnosed with ADHD at age 32 when I returned to college 8yrs ago. I encourage those who believe they have this disorder to do the same so you can achieve your dreams.It helped me to know and learn how to deal with it. I graduated with a BA in 2004.

  8. Fran
    | Reply

    I like to think of it as Attention Discrimination – sure we can focus on things, just not always the things that Others want us to, and just not at the “right” time! 😉

  9. Miss Jodi
    | Reply

    I agree. Michael Phelps is a shining example of what people with ADHD can do. It’s so refreshing to see that instead of all of the meeting we go to at school where they tell us over and over what our daughter can’t do.

  10. Peter
    | Reply

    I don’t see ADHD as not being able to focus as much as difficulty dealing with multiple tasks, and in some cases, being distracted. I’d give a great deal of credit to whoever helped Michael maintain self-esteem, in finding and maintaining his ability to focus on his goals.

  11. caitlyn
    | Reply

    people like him prove threre is nothing to be asahamed of.hes my hero

  12. caitlyn
    | Reply

    i have adhd and im proud of it i lov michal phelps

  13. […] morning I enjoyed an article on swimmer Michael Phelps from the Edge Foundation. It is titled “Michael Phelps is not an Attention Deficit.” His mother says the […]

  14. Raja
    | Reply

    Good for people to know.

  15. Rhianna Wilson
    | Reply

    Micheals Phelps should be treated like any athlete who gets bad publicity. If he’s allowed to continue doing ads for endorsments. Then Athlete prior to him that lost endorsements should be able to sue company’s for breach of contract. They should also be reinstated with the atletic associations that they belong to. What message are we sending if we pick and chose who we allow to continue their career. Whats applies to one person should apply to all.

  16. jason
    | Reply

    he’s a true role model for me. I also have adhd and knowing that he was diagnosed it too was really self assuring for me. It has def given me hope. Thank you Michael for the inspiration you’ve given me

  17. […] Michael Phelps ADHD has not stopped him from success | Edge Foundation […]

  18. hannah
    | Reply

    I have ADHD and I’m 14. I’m currently in 8th grade and have maintained all A’s and B’s the entire school year. Of course I am getting all these grades with the treatment, but last year without the treatment, I had gotten As, Bs, Cs and even a D. I remember all my past years in school and I did the most poor in language arts. I had this habit where I would start to read a sentence and couldn’t even finish it without my mind starting to drift and think more than 5 different things at once. It was crazy. I would also never shut up in my classes. As I was called “motor mouth” from my friends, I continued to get in trouble and constantly have to move seats. I must say, I feel like I am an insanely more well-behaved and mature teenager than I was only a year ago. I don’t know if Michael Phelps takes treatment or not, but he does give the disorder ADHD a great reputation. I never even knew he had it. It’s good to know that just because people are putting you down because of what your born with, doesn’t mean you won’t up like famous people who have accomplished so much. He’s truly inspiring.

    • Peggy -- Edge Foundation blogger
      | Reply

      Thank you SO much for sharing your story. As you state so well, it is affirming to hear the success stories of others who have ADHD. The surprise benefit of more people being diagnosed with ADHD is that more adults are aware they have it and can come forward and share their story. Howie Mandel and Ty Pennington are a couple of other celebrities who have recently revealed they have ADHD. Here at Edge we celebrate the accomplishments of all people living with ADHD — famous or not. We are so glad you took the time to share your success story with our readers!

  19. Ethan
    | Reply

    I was diagnosed with ADHD when i was in the 5th grade but before that school was a living hell for me! I was constantly moving seats in class because i couldnt handle being next to others. During class i just couldnt stop talking and i got tons of detentions calls home and referals. I felt useless like i should just give up because i wasnt good at anything. But then i went to middle school and found out there was such thing as PE!PE was the reason i got up in the morning becase it just felt great and was a great way to get my energy out andit helped u had the most supportive coach i could ever have he was awesome. He was very supportive of me and if i evet make it to the Olympics i owe it all to him. I was the fastest in the whole 6th grade i could run the mile easily in 4:49 so my confidence was boosted then my parents enrolled me in a track club i now i am in the 9th grade and have been to the Junior Olympics three years in a row and all three times i have gotten very very high rankings! So i have learned to be proud of my ADHD.

  20. […] The Edge Foundation blog features a great post about how Michael Phelps proves ADHD is not attention deficit! […]

  21. MrsOgg
    | Reply

    Sometimes I wonder why I wasn’t diagnosed until adulthood. I feel like my parents should have known…should have done something…my teachers should have seen it but, I can’t go back in time. This article reminds me to be thankful I was diagnosed at all. If my preschool age girls begin to exhibit signs of adhd I am ready and waiting to help them succeed where I couldn’t. Michael Phelps mom is an amazing inspiration to me.

    • Peggy -- Edge blogger
      | Reply

      Be sure to check out the articles about Girls and ADHD. It’s only recently that people have started realizing that girl’s ADHD looks different from boy’s. ADHD is very difficult to diagnose in preschoolers, so be sure to not jump to any conclusions without speaking to a specialist first. As I’m sure you know, ADHD is sometimes hereditary, so your girls are lucky to have an aware parent watching over them.

  22. […] Michael Phelps, Olympic Gold Swimmer […]

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