Michael’s success cannot be fully explained by his athletic prowess alone. His drive must also be incredible and those qualities of personality – persistence and intensity – can be highly problematic in the childhood years when a child’s interests and strengths are not academic. Things change dramatically once a child finds his/her niche which often doesn’t occur until late high school or beyond.
The Phelps' ADHD story is otherwise important for two reasons. First it calls into question whether we should really be labeling a child with Michael with a mental disorder. One could hardly call him impaired at this time of his life. Yet academics regularly pronounce that ADHD is a life-long disorder. Indeed, perhaps the outcome for the well screened highly impaired university selected children with ADHD is more guarded. But for the garden variety, front-line Tom Sawyers, Pippi Longstockings and now Michael Phelps that make up my and most doctors’ practices, the future is much brighter (once they find their niche).