Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a very common childhood disorder that can affect an individual through adulthood.
Individuals who have ADHD may have trouble controlling their behavior, paying attention and staying focused. They could also be hyperactive. These symptoms make it hard for them to study and earn a degree but not impossible.
Below are some famous people who have met ADHD head on to make successful careers.
- Online MSEd in Special Education (Ranked #11 Best Online Master’s in Special Education Program by U.S. News & World Report 2021)
- Online Master of Science in Special Education
- M.Ed. in Elementary Education and Special Education (ITL); M.Ed. in Special Education: Moderate to Severe (ITL); M.Ed. in Special Education: Cross Categorical (Leads to initial teacher licensure)
- BA Special Education (Mild to Moerate) - Leads to single licensure in K - 12 special education; MA Teaching, Special Education (K-12)
Best known for being the presidential campaign manager for Bill Clinton in 1992, James Carville is a political commentator and consultant. He was diagnosed with adult-onset ADHD and gives frequent speeches about it for organizations such as the Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorders. Prior to this, however, Carville earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1970 and Juris Doctor degree in 1973 from Louisiana State University. He also earned the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters in 1993 and wrote the best-selling memoir “All’s Fair: Love, War and Running for President.”
Although some people may not recognize the name Paul Orfalea, they have heard of Kinko’s, the famous copy chain that has become FedEx Office. Orfalea founded the store in the 1970s while attending the University of Southern California, but school did not come easy to him because of ADHD and dyslexia, which he believes were the reasons that he failed second grade and only achieved a C average in business school. In an interview, however, Orfalea said that ADHD helped him start Kinko’s and allowed him to think big without worrying so much about details. He also criticizes the No Child Left Behind Act, believing that he would still be in third grade because of his bad spelling.
Diagnosed with ADHD while he attended college, Ty Pennington looks to carpentry for focus. The author, designer and television host went to Kennesaw College in Georgia, which later became Kennesaw State University, to study art and history. He transferred to the Art Institute of Atlanta to focus on design and earned a bachelor’s degree before spending some time at the Atlanta College of Art to study art and sculpture.
Pennington started his television career in 2000 on the home-improvement reality show “Trading Spaces,” which earned him national stardom and led to the release of his first book on home improvement. He is also well known for hosting “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” since 2004.
At the age of 15, Michael Phelps became the youngest American male swimmer in the history of the Olympics. He won 22 medals as of 2012, setting the record for the most medals won by a single athlete in the history of the event.
However, along with his joy of the sport, swimming is how he coped with ADHD growing up. In an interview, Phelps’ mother said that he had the classic signs of the disorder, including being unable to focus and sit still, but he used the sport to channel that. From 2004 to 2006, he attended the University of Michigan to study sports management and marketing.
Professional dancer and performer Karina Smirnoff says that ADHD was not a common disorder in Ukraine, where she was born. After living the majority of her life with a lot of energy and being hyper, she was eventually diagnosed in 2007. She attended Fordham University and majored in both information systems programming and economics. At the same time, she resumed her childhood passion of dance, studying the jive, rumba, samba and waltz.
During her dance career, Smirnoff has dominated ballroom dance competitions, winning the Asian Open Championship, five U.S. Latin Ballroom Championships and the World Trophy Championship. Smirnoff debuted on “Dancing with the Stars” in 2006 and has starred in at least six other seasons.
Although these five famous people have coped with ADHD, they have found careers that help them burn their energy and keep them focused. Some of them even earned college degrees despite the disorder, showing that ADHD doesn’t have to mean failure for students.