ADHD Parenting Advice from Michael Phelps' Mom

Need some ADHD parenting advice? Learn how the mothers of three ADHD super-achievers — an Olympic record-breaker, a TV heavyweight, and a world-class adventurer — helped their kids beat the odds.

Moms, Part 3

I told my daughter, the sky’s the limit”

Karen Fisher, middle-school teacher in Bow, Washington, and mother of Danielle Fisher, the youngest person to scale all seven of the world’s tallest mountains

Follow-through was always a challenge for Danielle Fisher. “She’d start her homework but not finish it, or finish it but not turn it in,” recalls her mother, Karen Fisher. But Karen was sympathetic, because she, too, often got sidetracked. “It would take all day for me to clean the kitchen, because I’d move to another room, then another,” she says. “Things didn’t seem as easy for me as they were for other parents.”

When Danielle entered sixth grade, it occurred to Karen that they both might have ADHD. After a doctor confirmed their diagnoses, mother and daughter went on medication. Each one’s ability to focus improved, but problems persisted. “In the classroom, girls with ADHD often get overlooked,” says Karen, a middle-school teacher. “It’s difficult to believe a student has ADHD if she’s a good, pleasant, quiet kid who doesn’t cause problems.”

To make sure Danielle got extra help in the classroom, Karen filed for a 504 Plan, which grants students accommodations, like extra time to complete homework and the option to take tests in a private, distraction-free room.

Through it all, Karen has done her best to maintain a positive relationship with Danielle. “Relationships are very important to girls with ADHD,” she says. “If I got mad at her, she’d have a difficult time. But if I could convey that she’s needed and appreciated, she’d do better. And I do, too. I tell Danielle that she can do or be whoever she wants to be.”

With her mother’s encouragement, Danielle latched onto one of the loftiest goals imaginable: to scale the Seven Summits (the tallest peaks on each of the seven continents). An avid hiker as a child, Danielle got serious about mountaineering in high school. In January 2003, she flew to Argentina to climb her first big mountain, the 22,848-foot Aconcagua — the tallest mountain in the Southern Hemisphere.

“Mountains focus her,” explains Karen. “Maybe it’s the exercise, or the fact that there’s less chaos up there, and no daily concerns like housecleaning or laundry. Or maybe it’s the fact that all climbers have the same goal — to get to the top. It’s a comfort to her.”

Two years and six mountains later, on June 2, 2005, Karen and her husband got the call: Danielle, then 20, was phoning from Mount Everest, having just become the youngest American ever to scale the world’s tallest mountain (and the youngest person to scale all of the Seven Summits). Karen couldn’t be prouder, and she encourages other parents of kids with ADHD to maintain high hopes for their kids.

“I always tell my daughter not to give up,” Karen says. “It’s hard, but if you focus on one step at a time, you’ll reach those mini-goals on the way up. Eventually, you’ll get where you’re going.”


This article comes from the April/May 2007 issue of ADDitude.

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