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Mother of Michael Phelps Talks About His ADHD

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Meghan Youker

ASHLAND (KPTM) - He's the world's most successful swimmer.  But years ago, like millions of other American children, Michael Phelps struggled with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD.  Saturday his mother was in Nebraska helping others learn from her family's experiences.

A return trip to Nebraska for Debbie Phelps.  This time instead of watching her son Michael swim in the U.S. Olympic trials, she's telling people at the Strategic Air and Space Museum about his childhood.  "Michael had a very hard time staying focused in school, Michael had a very hard time staying on task," she said.

Michael Phelps took medication for ADHD between the ages of nine and eleven.  Debbie says everyday she tried to keep his life organized and structured.  "The pool was a safe haven for him because it had boundaries, it had limitations.  I mean there are four sides to a pool so he had that comfort level there," Debbie Phelps said.

Phelps was one of several speakers Saturday at the museum that highlighted different disorders of the brain.  It's all part of a new exhibit opening to the public this weekend.  "I just think it's a great experience.  I don't get this very often," said one boy.

Kids, parents and teachers alike came to hear Phelps' story.  Some say she's raising awareness and understanding about ADHD.  "It was great to hear from a parent's perspective what that's like and her slant on all of it, so that's been helpful," said Joe Hanrahan, who's son has ADHD.

The tale of how one talented young boy became an international success and phenomenon.  "It makes me feel anything is possible if you just put your mind to it," said nine-year-old Shea Hanrahan.

Debbie Phelps is a school principal.  She says it's important for parents of children with ADHD to be advocates for their children and work closely with their schools.  She says placing parameters on a child's life can also help them cope with the disorder.

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