Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Olympic Swimming Fever

I'm not real big into the summer Olympics, but I have to admit I got caught up in the whole Michael Phelps thing but probably not for the reason you think. Yes, it's amazing that he's accomplished what no one else has by winning eight medals, but the reason I found myself wrapped up in it is because when I look at Michael Phelps, I see my son -- both are tall, thin, have big hands and big feet, and have an arm span like a condor. The more I hear about Michael Phelps, the more I see the parallel with my son -- both are ADHD, were bullied and struggled in school. My son also swims, not competitively...but he is part fish.

I pointed this out to my son this week, showing him that despite his hardships and struggles with ADHD and school, this guy accomplished something. Something big! He didn't let anything hold him back from his dream. He worked at swimming and worked hard. He set his sights on something and didn't let anyone tell him he couldn't do it. I told my son he has this same power inside him and when he starts to doubt to think about Michael Phelps.

I truly admire this young man's mother for supporting him throughout the years. From experience, I know at times it's not easy raising an ADHD child. If you don't believe me, think about how you'd feel planning a birthday party for your child only to have no one show up because it turns out he has no friends at school.

Many consider ADHD something imagined. It's not. It's a real neurological condition that varies in severity. There are some kids who manage fine with structure or diet. My son is not one of them. He needs medication to function daily because without it, his mind moves at the speed of light and he loses focus, acts before he thinks and becomes disruptive. He also gets very frustrated with himself for not being "normal" like other kids (he also has Dyslexia which doesn't help). Medicating him was not something we took lightly but when we saw what he was capable of on the medicine, we knew it was a choice we had to make. Is it over-diagnosed? Probably, but that doesn't mean it doesn't really exist.

ADHD has its advantage...strong creativity, high energy, risk taking...my pediatrician always told me that it produced traits that made good CEO material. And it's true...several CEO's are ADHD. My son's favorite phrases are, "Hey, I have a good idea," or "what if..." And he always ask questions. So much so, there's times his father and I want to put duct tape over his mouth just for a few moments of silence! His pediatrician also told me not to worry about my son's build...he always said he had the build of a swimmer or runner. Now I have doctors trying to convince me that he has a condition called Marfans because his arm span is longer than his height (I hear Phelps, who is 6'4" has a 6'7" arm span).

I do everything I can to advocate for my son whenever I can. But that doesn't mean I cut him slack either. I expect him to do his best and not use his ADHD as a reason not to do something. I don't accept "I can't do it." So thanks, Michael Phelps for helping me prove my point. My son probably won't be standing on a platform at the Olympics, but I know he won't let his ADHD get in the way and find successful in his life.