Why It Matters That Olympic Gymnast Simone Biles Has ADHD

Olympic gymnast extraordinaire Simone Biles recently opened up about the fact that she has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and takes medication for it. As someone who was diagnosed with inattentive attention deficit disorder (ADD) at the age of 7 and has been taking medication for it ever since, it made me extremely happy to see another young woman with ADHD speak openly about her diagnosis. However, this wasn’t just a big deal for me and Simone. This was a big deal for everyone with ADHD, and everyone who’s ever doubted its legitimacy as a condition or thought negatively of people who have it.

The stigma of ADHD is real. So real, in fact, that some parents are reluctant to seek help for their children for fear they might have to carry around such a diagnosis. The stigma is so prevalent that it’s easy for it to be internalized by people with ADHD. Is it any wonder that nearly half of all children and adults with ADHD have some sort of co-morbid disorder like anxiety or depression?

There’s nothing shameful about having ADHD. It just means our brains work a little differently. Speaking out and ending the stigma is so important for the for the 9 percent of U.S. school age children and 4.4 percent of U.S. adults living with ADHD. By speaking out about her diagnosis and making it clear she is not ashamed, Simone Biles is doing her part to end the stigma.

There’s another aspect to Biles’ statement as well. Something she can do by talking about her diagnosis that I can’t do by talking about mine. Simone Biles is a visible, prominent person who just told the world she has ADHD. As an elementary school girl with ADD in the early 2000s, my diagnosis sometimes felt lonely. I didn’t know a lot of other kids who had it, and I didn’t know any adults who did. I certainly didn’t know of any famous people who had it.

However, for kids today who are growing up with ADHD, they will be able to look to Simone Biles as a role model. This is important because when you have a condition that is as doubted and stigmatized as ADHD, having a role model who shares your diagnosis can be a big deal. It’s especially significant that our new ADHD role model is a young woman who is practically the epitome of success.

For many of us with ADHD, especially women and girls, ADHD can feel like failure. We internalize messages that tell us having ADHD means there’s something wrong with us or we can’t be successful. Well, Simone Biles just showed the world there’s nothing wrong with having ADHD and having it can’t stop you from winning five Olympic medals or succeeding in anything else you want to do.

Simone Biles, Olympic medalist smiles with gold medal

Image via Simone Biles Official Facebook page.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to ADHD/ADD

young woman staring into the distance

Why I’m Hesitant to Discuss My Recent ADHD Diagnosis

I’ve been writing a blog for about five years now. I write a lot about myself as a parent — my mothering triumphs and failures, frustrations and fulfillments, surprises and bits of wisdom. However, I don’t seem to talk much about myself as just Laura. That’s my real name, Laura. I’ve been able to write [...]
Young fashionable slender girl in autumn coat and boots. Comics sketch style. Black and white hand drawing.

'But You're Too Smart to Have ADHD'

“You’re smart, and do well in school. You don’t have ADHD”. If I had a penny for every time I heard that I would be rich (well maybe not rich because I’m in college, but I would be able to pay for my tuition). ADHD isn’t always the kid who interrupts the teacher, gets up in the [...]
girl in class

What the New School Year Brings as a Mom of a Child With ADHD

As I walk into Target, I immediately see gigantic back to school signs and can practically smell all of the #2 pencils. I see kids with their parents going over their school supply list, making sure they got the correct number of notebooks and folders and the right brand of markers. The kids look happy and [...]
Woman in striped long-sleeved shirt walking down the street

What I'm Learning About Myself After My ADHD Diagnosis

I flake on people and hangout sessions. I go home a lot on the weekend. I seclude myself. I wander off to escape the stimuli. I’m not a solid friend. I’ll ask you to repeat what you just said two more times, seemingly like I’m not paying attention. People have called me out on it [...]