It's pretty hard not to get caught up in watching Michael Phelps win gold medals by breaking world record after world record. Today's USA Today has a great article about Michael and what drives him and how his body is ideally suited to swimming.
But, interesting to me was that Michael Phelps' mother is a middle school principal and that Michael was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in elementary school and he took Ritalin for it. Michael had a hard time focusing. Yet now, his coach says he's incredibly focused when he's swimming or preparing for a race.
I'm one of those parents who wrestled with the decision to give Ritalin to two of my sons and I eventually made the decision to medicate them. I don't want anyone to view that statement as an encouragement to medicate. I did lots of research and we did numerous things to address the boys' ADD, not just Ritalin. But, I believe the combination of everything we did, especially the intensive work the boys did with the Special Ed teacher and the eye exercises, ultimately gave them the tools to overcome their learning problems.
The outcome could have probably been the same without Ritalin, but maybe not in same timespan. The boys took the medication for three years. They told me that it allowed them to concentrate better.
Some of the other strategies we used were:
* Eye exercises to increase their reading fluidity. Their eyes didn't track to the end of the line, but would instead jump to the following line.
* Putting lots of repetitive things on audio tape. They'd listen to their spelling words before going to sleep at night.
* Teaching several different organizational skills. For example, getting assignments done was an obstacle so they had a clipboard where they'd stick all their assignments and the back of the clipboard had a daily checklist that they'd review before leaving class.
* Teaching tracking. They had worksheets with random letters and had to go completely across each line to find the sequential letters in the alphabet. With the Visograph computer software that's available now, this type of exercise is now computer-based.
Michael Phelps probably taught himself skills to focus when he swam that were also cross-applied to his education. With a caring mother who obviously had a strong knowledge of his diagnosis (she presents workshops on ADD for parents), Michael overcame his difficulties.
Be sure to read the entire USA Today article. It's very interesting to learn about the unusual characteristics of Michael's body. Plus, it's a great story to convey to young boys who are themselves, struggling to overcome ADHD or learning disabilities.