Woohoo! Another Real Life ADHD Hero!!!

Wikipedia defines ADHD* as a neurobehavioral developmental disorder… typically presents itself during childhood, and is characterized by a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity, as well as forgetfulness, poor impulse control or impulsivity, and distractibility… currently considered a persistent and chronic condition for which no medical cure is available, although medication and therapy can treat symptoms… Methods of treatment usually involve some combination of medications, behaviour modifications, life style changes, and counselling… The scientific consensus in the field… is that ADHD is a disorder which impairs functioning, and that many adverse life outcomes are associated with ADHD.

Michael Phelps: Making a Splash

Sunday August 3, 2008

Swimmer, Michael Phelps, is going for gold in the upcoming Olympics in Beijing. Actually, he has already won six gold and two bronze medals in the 2004 Olympics. He has also set multiple world records. In Beijing he is going for more. Phelps will race up to 20 times in pursuit of a record eight gold medals. Not bad for an athlete who as a child, diagnosed with ADHD, was frequently in trouble at both school and the pool for being disruptive.

“He never sat still. He never shut up; he would never stop asking questions,” says Phelps’ mom, Debra Phelps, a middle school teacher who occasionally speaks on panels about ADHD. “He just wanted to go from one thing to another.” When an elementary teacher told her that her son would never focus on anything, Debra Phelps knew the teacher was wrong. Michael could focus like no other when he was swimming.

“Michael’s ability to focus amazes me,” says Debra who explained to the teacher – “He might be rocking on the kickboard as he’s waiting to swim, but he knows what he wants to do.” He wants to succeed in swimming. And succeed he has.

As a child, swimming provided Phelps with structure and a safe refuge after his parents’ divorce. His mom credits swimming for setting her hyperactive son on a singular path. Interestingly, it is his ability to hyperfocus on his swimming goals that has made such a difference in his success. Despite all the hoopla, pressures and expectations surrounding the Olympics, when Phelps walks up to the pool deck his mind is single mindedly focused on the job. “When I walk into a final, I walk in very focused,” he said. “I don’t mess around, I don’t joke around, I am focused on the job I have to do and want to do. It’s easy for me to do that. If I put my mind to it I can do just about anything.”

This marvellous ADHD ability to “hyperfocus” is both a boon and a curse- especially when the ADHDer** is still at school.

Have you ever heard someone say: “He can focus on computer games for hours at a time, why can’t he finish his homework?” or “He can read a book for hours, so why can’t he complete his paperwork?” when speaking about an ADHDer?

Being able to hyperfocus means they are super successful at anything they want to do, or are interested in, until it gets boring- hence Richard Branson’s type of success (another real life ADHD hero). The Virgin genius starts a company, works like mad till it’s running smoothly and gets boring, and then starts all over again on another one! Ty Pennington (the very likable over-excitable host of “Extreme Makeover Home Edition”) is another real life ADHD hero with several businesses, a penchant for design, and a band over and above his TV show!

I could go on to name a few more- but that’s another post.


So, to state it very basically, the ability to hyperfocus is a great thing for an ADHDer because it means he can do whatever he puts his mind to and do it exceptionally well. And the things they can hyperfocus on often involve their natural talents- like with Phelps’ swimming and my Damien’s drawing. When an ADHDer hyperfocuses, he loses all sense of time and space.

Why is the ADHDer’s ability to hyperfocus a curse as well?

Well, for one thing, ADHDers find it incredibly difficult to get their brains to change gears- and this may sound strange when I say at the same time that they battle to focus. What happens is this. Lets say an ADHDer will starts the school day in English class, and goes from there to math, then to LO, then HSS etc. (and as they get older each class is with a different teacher as well). Where a non-ADHDer learns to change gears (so to speak) when the bell rings and starts thinking about the next subject as soon as they walk into a class, an ADHDer’s brain is sometimes still two classes back… and if it was a class they liked- it’s even harder to switch.

When they finish school, and go out into the working world or to varsity or college, often studying or working in a field they’re interested in- where this ability to hyperfocus serves most of them very well.

But school? School is boring… its repetitious. Repetition is the absolute bane of an ADHDer’s life- and this makes us parents lives exceptionally difficult because we have to try and motivate our knuckleheads every. Single. Day. PLEEEEASE just to do homework!

*I précised it a little, and I think it’s a very cool and very accurate definition- so thanx to whoever wrote it.

**I say “ADHDer” (pronounced simply as “adder”) instead of saying “a child diagnosed with ADD or ADHD”

12 thoughts on “Woohoo! Another Real Life ADHD Hero!!!

  1. How do you do…
    a hero

    Sword, nunchucks??
    Gamma-ray laser taser gloves in sky blue???


    So what’s the f**king point of heroes, no really? Don’t they just act all morally highbrow saving virtues and looking like dicks albeit better dressed dicks than us? But still dicks though, bequeathed with amour or a good seamstress. Showing us up to be A typical inept-lings while they swan in (most times un-asked) and mute whatever quite entertaining cataclysm that was descending down your road while stealing whichever apparently distressed maiden is hanging about the place.

    Based on that alone, they should not be encouraged, moreover culled. Alas 21st century heroism isn’t so slice and die. Everyone can be a sort of hero, so sit down Fatwoman and Widerman and lets get cracking.

    …more at lifestyleguides.blogspot.com

  2. sage: ta…

    e.m.c.t: saw the homework thanx. damien has never focussed enough to pick a hero for himself.

    sweets: wtg tjomma!!!

    gill: my mission is to educate!

    m.i.: thank you, praise from you is high praise indeed!

    tamara: 😀

    stephanie: thank you so much! you already know i think teachers are superheroes!

    arkwife: aw thanx!!! and i love the award!!!

    jo: ah yes, and it changes so often with our adhders too…

  3. I can just imagine Damien as the next Michaelangelo…(without the dodgy body odour)

    You’re doing a fantastic job in creating awareness…you should get an award!! In fact, have one 🙂

  4. Nicely put and may I just say, you are the best possible mom Damien could have (even if you or he occasionally find that laughable…).

    As a teacher and a non-ADHDer, I need to get my brain fully around all of this; I think I'm getting better. I do know that simply saying the truth out loud – me: "I don't always understand how your brain is working" and student: "School is difficult & boring for me when I have to sit down, etc" – helps all of us come up with some creative solutions. I let one kid stand at the back of the classroom on his skateboard sometimes just to help clear his mind; another was allowed to work on homework from other classes if he was caught up in mine.

    Hang in there, you're doing swell 😀

  5. That explains a lot – I could never understand how my ADHD brother could play guitar for hours, but not be able to sit down and do homework.

  6. Very well said! A lot of our spectrum kids have similiar issues and that was a nice and easy explanation that most can follow.

  7. Very interesting, I never knew about the ability ADHDers have to hyperfocus and I never knew that Michael Phelps was ADHD.

  8. i can so relate… now after years of denial 🙂 school just sucks, kay thinks it’s SUCH a waste of time… well at least i’m halfway there… excellent post tjomma!!!

  9. who is Damien’s ADHDer hero?

    Did you see there’s new TBMB homework?

  10. Hmmm
    well that was surely a class on ADHD for me!

    Hope you can get yours focused and it gets easier on you!

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