ADHD children face a cascade of disabilities

In recent years, more attention is given to the treatment of adult ADHD since more evidence revealed that ADHD symptoms persist into adulthood in two-thirds of children with this disorder.


Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects about 4% of school-age children in the United States. In Canada, the figure is about 10% of the total number of cases in the U.S.


It is a neuro-developmental disorder with very confounding conditions that has an enormous effect on those who suffer from it, as well as on the sufferers’ families who live with them and people who work with them.


ADHD is a condition that interferes with those who suffer from it from not being able to stay focus and manage distractions. They are ‘on the go’ around the clock, and they are unable to handle emotions and actions without acting impulsively.


The Hyperactive Michael


Michael Phelps is described by his mother as a boy who was constantly ‘on the go’. His teachers from pre-kindergarten to grade three all were concerned about Michael who ‘couldn’t stay focused in class”. Michael’s mother, a school principal who deals with children everyday almost missed acknowledging her son’s early years behaviours are reflection of ADHD symptoms.


Risk Factors against Michael


ADHD children do not suffer from this disorder alone. They also suffer from anxiety, depression, learning disability and other mental health disorders. Major challenges for these children’s daily functions are staying focused especially when they are distracted by other stimulation in the environment or within themselves. They are also highly reactive to stresses.


Michael’s mother in sharing her personal story over the social media indicated that Michael has trouble with sustaining attention. He also tends to move to another topic before one conversation completes. She and others have to always slow him down. In preparing for a swimming event, Michael will spend a few hours focusing before the event begins.


Although it is unknown whether Michael also suffers from anxiety disorder, it is not uncommon among ADHD children and adults to feel anxious easily due to their struggle to find a balance of stimulation that enable them to function with optimal arousal and at a right level. That is, not being under-aroused to feel bore and unfocused, and over-aroused to act impulsively.


ADHD children also have trouble with following rules, such as waiting their turn to speak or to do something. ADHD children also tend to rush through tasks without paying attention to details or thinking thoroughly before acting.


Michael loves swimming. How does he learn to wait and to follow rules imposing on him before diving off the platform during a swimming meet or a competition?  How does he learn to wait finishing his homework properly before going for his swimming lessons or training?

Please find the answers from the following section.


Self-esteem and social skills are noticeably poor among ADHD children. This is because these children are aware of being labelled due to their behaviours, and they also have difficulty with reading social cues in social situations. Many of them become victims of bullying by peers.


Michael was bullied by peers during his early childhood due to his symptomatic ADHD behaviours. He also continues to be on the headlines that focused on his behaviours and be ridiculed openly by the public including those who adored his athletic talents.


For those children ADHD symptoms continue to persist into their adulthood have a higher rate of abusing substances, involving in antisocial behaviours, getting into trouble with the law especially in the area of car-related charges, and having suicidal ideation when every part of their lives appear to be falling apart.


In an interview with a Magazine when he was preparing for his fifth and last Olympics, Michael shared openly about contemplating a suicide after his arrest for drunk and driving on September 30, 2014. He said, “How many times will I mess up”? This was Michael’s second charge for drink and drive within 10 years.


The year after he won eight Olympic medals in the summer games of 2008, he was caught smoking marijuana at a party. Michael was quick to apologize publicly for his behaviours.


***Many ADHD children and adults will go through this cycle of messing up, feeling shameful and helpless and becoming socially withdrawal for a while until the next cycle starts all over again.***


Michael Phelps in the same interview shared that he isolated himself in his home for a week contemplating ways to attempt suicide after being charged for drunk and drive second time in his life.


With the help of his friend Ray Lewis, the book ‘The Purpose Driven Life’ he read during his stay at the Rehab facility seemed to have a transforming effect on him. Michael met with his father whom he had not seen for years to resolve a long-standing unresolved traumatic experience that seemed to start when his father leaving him and his mother, Debbie Phelps.


Many clinical data indicated that children who suffer from childhood trauma of any kind have a higher chance of having difficulty with impulse control and deficits in executive function.


Executive function is related to managing and organizing information by monitoring, selecting and containing those data that are important to be processed and stored in short-term memory. To do that, it requires a person to withhold attractions that are irrelevant to the task at hand by switching attention to the task that requires his/her undivided attention.


For Michael, having ADHD and likely impacted by the trauma of separation and abandonment, both conditions might have exacerbated his difficulty in impulse control and deficits in executive function.