May 18th, 2012
07:05 AM ET

Student refuses to accept ADHD label

By Tamara Wilson, CNN

(CNN) This month Michelle Davis will proudly take the stage to accept her high school diploma. For her it was a journey that could have taken an entirely different turn.

When she was younger, Michelle Davis was diagnosed with a learning disability. She had trouble reading and writing. Gradually she started to fall behind other students, became disruptive and was later diagnosed with ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder).

And according to the Journal of Psychiatric Research, teens with ADHD are more likely to drop out of high school or delay graduation.

With the help of her mother, Robyn Olivo, Michelle set out to beat the odds.

Raising three children, divorcee Robyn Olivo did all she knew how to do at the time to help Michelle with her disability. She bought “Hooked on Phonics” – educational software designed to help children read. Olivo would sit with her daughter and have her repeat words and practice vowels. Her mother signed Michelle up for cheerleading to help her spell and sound out words. Later she would pay for tutors.

“As we continued working, the more she read, the better she spelled. But it took her a long time to say the words. So she didn't like reading out loud to try to pronounce the words,” says Olivo.  She would always say, "I can't do it," and I said, "You can do it."