World famous swimmer Michael Phelps made history this week when he became the most decorated Olympian of all time. He and his team won the men’s 4 x 400 relay earning Phelps his 19th total Olympic medal. While watching Phelps swim to victory time and time again, many wonder how he does it. Anyone who follows a professional athlete’s career would attribute his success to hard work and dedication. What many people may not be aware of is that Michael Phelps was diagnosed with ADD/HD, which is short for attention deficit disorder or hyperactivity disorder, at the age of nine. At the age of 11, he was taken off the popular drug Ritalin and proceeded to swim his way in to history.

After speaking with Dr. Kevin Ross Emery, author of the books Managing the Gift of your ADD/HD Child and Managing the Gift: Alternative Approaches to Attention Deficit Disorder, about the subject, he concludes that Phelps’ success comes from his gift of having ADD/HD. Dr. Kevin has spent the last 14 years educating people on how to deal with ADD/HD without using medication and showing them that the gift of this diagnosis shows a sign of creativity and brilliance. Instead of turning toward medication, Dr. Ross points to the benefits of ADD/HD and highlights minds like Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Ernest Hemingway, Steve Jobs, Greg Louganis, and now Michael Phelps.

When asked if Phelps’ Olympic performances were affected by his having ADD/HD, Dr. Ross responded, “Michael’s ADD/HD gift was part of what got him to the Olympics in the first place by his ability to hyperfocus in the way he trained. His ability to hyperfocus into his goal, combined with his high energy, played a major role in his successes.” Dr. Ross believes strongly in embracing the gift of ADD/HD as he calls it and utilizing self-awareness and management to foster the positive attributes.

There is no doubt that Michael Phelps has had enormous success in swimming. “He did it in spite of his label and without medication,” said Dr. Ross. Not only has Phelps inspired hopeful swimmers around the world, but also anyone with ADD/HD who wants to be successful without the use of prescription drugs.

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