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Talking Childhood ADHD with U of M

During attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) awareness month, University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development Professor Damien Fair, who leads the Masonic Institute of the Developing Brain, shares considerations about what ADHD is in children, how it affects the brain and how we can support those we know with ADHD.

Q: What is ADHD?
Prof. Fair: ADHD is one of the world's most prevalent mental health and neurodevelopmental disorders. It is characterized by an inability to stay focused, hyperactivity and impulsivity in multiple contexts.   

Q: When does ADHD develop? Are there early warning signs?
Prof. Fair: ADHD often starts in early childhood. In some cases it persists into adulthood. In other cases it is non-persistent and declines in adolescence. The typical diagnosis occurs when signs of ADHD are greater than expected based on the child's developmental age and when the symptoms cause difficulties at home, at school or in other environments.  

Q: What should I do if I think a child I know may have ADHD?
Prof. Fair: Speaking candidly with your physician and mental health providers is a great place to start if you believe your child might have ADHD. Because ADHD can come in many forms and is often personalized, it is very important to get feedback from a trusted health professional about the diagnosis and the proper course of action based on the specific child.

Q: How can parents or caretakers best support a child with ADHD?
Prof. Fair: Doing one's best to gain the proper support and advice from a health professional is a great place to start supporting a child with ADHD. It is also important to know that ADHD is common, and that some of the most talented and gifted individuals we know have ADHD. Supporting children with care, mentoring, patience and a multitude of experiences provides an environment for all of our children to thrive. 

Q: What are you currently doing to advance research in ADHD?
Prof. Fair: We have been at the forefront of understanding all of the different brain patterns that might relate to a given child’s ADHD symptoms. ADHD is personalized. So, characterizing why any given child has ADHD provides a path for more effective treatments and support strategies for all of our youth.

Damien Fair is a professor in the Institute of Child Development in the College of Education and Human Development; a professor in the Department of Pediatrics in University of Minnesota Medical School; and the director of the Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain.

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