In Michael Phelps fashion, the U.S. Olympic swimmer has a gold medal during the 400 freestyle relay at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro on Monday. This is the 18th gold medal of his career, and some would say that his remarkable success can somewhat be attributed to his mother, Debbie Phelps.
Debbie is not just a mother. She is also a middle school principal in Towson, Maryland. Some would say that because of her job, she has a lot of experience when it comes to kids. Nothing, however, could prepare Debbie when he learned that her son has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD.
“That just hit my heart,” Debbie remarked. Michael was diagnosed with the condition when he was nine years old, after one of his teachers told Debbie that her son is unable to focus on anything during class.
“It made me want to prove everyone wrong. I knew that, if I collaborated with Michael, he could achieve anything he set his mind to,” Debbie added.
After his diagnosis, Debbie decided to work more closely with her son. She strove to maintain Michael’s interest in learning certain things, such as reading and math. In fact, she used her son’s love for swimming to get him to solve basic math problems. Instead of handing him an equation to figure out. She would ask him questions like, “How long would it take to swim 500 meters if you swim three meters per second?
According to Debbie’s interview with Additude magazine, she found it challenging to keep Michael focused during his swim meets. At one meet, Michael even angrily ripped his goggles off when he was ten after only finishing second. Later on, she would tell her son that sportsmanship counted as much as winning. She may have not known it, but she helped set Michael on a path to success.
Today, Michael is a living testament that anyone can do anything they set their heart and focus to, even with ADHD. For Debbie, she is proud to see her son winning gold medals over and over again. According to a report from USA Today, Michael believes that his 19th gold medal is more special than others, as it was the first game in which his three-month old son Boomer got to see him win.