Debbie Phelps Answers Readers Questions
Debbie Phelps, mother of Olympic Gold Medalist Swimmer Michael Phelps, is a spokesperson for Johnson and Johnson. She is a leader in the Facebook site ADHDMoms. She graciously answered several questions from our readers. Her responses are as follows:
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My son (seventh grade) takes meds during the day for ADHD. He plays sports directly after school and doesn't finish till 5 pm. Unfortunately, he doesn't eat all day (can't get himself to eat breakfast since very young and doesn't have appetite for lunch due to meds). When he gets home he is completely depleted and can't do work till he's had dinner. Problem is that by nighttime it's too late for short acting, meds have worn off, and he can't focus enough to read or do the real work required. HELP. It's that constant battle between knowing what to help him with and having him struggle himself...
Eating is important to a child's well being and this would be a subject to discuss with your doctor. The doctor may be able to adjust medications in order to allow the student to eat during lunch. Going until 5 pm each evening before eating is too long. The child needs to eat at other times throughout the day.
The most important thing you can do right now is talk with your doctor about your concerns and discuss with the doctor about medication options available.
My son has ADHD and has been on Concerta for 2 years. He's in eighth grade now. He gets by and makes average to above-average grades.
And if so, do you believe it has helped? Well, he's become very successful, so I guess so!
But was there ever a time that you didn't think Michael would be successful?
Did you ever doubt that he'd be able to succeed? There are times that my husband and I feel that our son will never be normal and will never succeed in adult life. (Just so you know, we are never negative in front of him. We always try to encourage him). Also, he is teased a lot.
Michael took medication for ADHD from the age of nine to the age of eleven. He wanted to stop taking medication and with the approval of his doctor, he stopped medication, accepting he would use medication again if he had difficulties managing his responsibilities. He did not need to go back to using medication. However, it did help with focus when he used it.
As far as believing Michael would not be successful, there was never a time I ever believed that Michael could not be successful. I always believed in his abilities and always offered him encouragement and support. It is important as parents to remember "this too will pass" and that our children do grow up, and many times the frustrations pass as our children grow up.
Did Michael have trouble finding/keeping friends?
Children with ADHD tend to gravitate toward children they can relate to. Many times this may be a younger child. Michael also played with children younger than him when he was young. He also, however, was on swim teams with children older than him. For example, when he was eleven, he might have been swimming with kids as old as 17 on the same team. He was able to get along with them as well.
So, although he gravitated more toward younger children for social activities, he also got along with his older teammates.
As an adult with ADHD who was not diagnosed until well past Michael's age, I fell upon coping skills that allowed me to be a high achiever in my own field. I believe there needs to be more publicity about the positives of ADHD to help ADHD people with positive self-image. In that light, what are a few of the strengths that you attribute to his ADHD and how did you help him build on those strengths?
Some of Michael's best characteristics are his compassion and empathy for other people. He is also very determined and creative. He has boundless energy. Children with ADHD are gifted, intelligent children.
Michael was also able to compartmentalize. He could hyperfocus on a race, allowing thoughts of past and future races to disappear. He would focus on one race at a time.
As a parent, it is important to find something your child enjoys and channel their energy into that. From there, you can build on their self-esteem.
I have a 10-year-old son with ADHD and ODD. Did your son Michael have any comorbid conditions, specifically ODD, and if so, do you have any advice as to how to distinguish between the "can't do" because of ADHD and the "won't do" due to ODD?
NO, Michael did not have any comorbid conditions. ADHD was the only condition.