Grant #: R305A160064 (Institute of Education Sciences)
PI: Stephen P. Becker, PhD
Co-I: Leanne Tamm, PhD; Jeff Epstein, PhD; Aaron Vaughn, PhD

The negative impact attention problems have on students’ educational functioning is substantial, and it is increasingly clear that some children display a unique pattern of attentional difficulties that are not captured by attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This cluster of attentional symptoms is referred to as “sluggish cognitive tempo” (SCT) and includes excessive daydreaming, confusion, seeming to be “in a fog,” and slowed behavior/thinking. A growing body of research suggests that SCT symptoms are (1) prevalent in children with and without ADHD, (2) associated with significant academic and socio-emotional problems, and (3) not identified, assessed, or treated as part of current educational practice. However, research on SCT is in its infancy and no study to date has used a multi-method design to examine the specific educational difficulties experienced by children with elevated levels of SCT. Such studies are essential in order to document the precise impact of SCT on children’s educational functioning. If children with elevated SCT display a unique pattern of academic and socio-emotional problems, then SCT represents an important and overlooked domain for assessment and intervention. It is necessary to better understand the precise educational difficulties experienced by children with elevated SCT before determining how to modify or develop interventions for these children. Accordingly, the primary objectives of this research proposal are to rigorously evaluate (1) the precise academic problems experienced by children with SCT, (2), the precise socio-emotional problems experienced by children with SCT, and (3) the current patterns of referral, educational accommodations, and interventions for children with elevated levels of SCT. A classroom-wide sampling approach will be used to assess teacher-rated SCT symptoms among students in second through fifth grades. Teacher ratings will be used to identify children who do and do not have elevated SCT, and parents of children with elevated SCT (n = 95) as well as parents of matched comparison children without SCT (n = 95) will then be invited to participate in a broader study comparing the academic and socio-emotional problems and educational services of children with and without SCT. A comprehensive battery of teacher, parent, and self-report measures, academic achievement testing and curriculum-based measurement, and school records will be used to evaluate both broad (e.g., grades, social problems) and specific (e.g., academic productivity, peer withdrawal) aspects of academic and socio-emotional functioning. In addition, classroom and playground observations and an analogue homework task will be conducted to provide a fine-grained evaluation of the unique academic and socio-emotional problems of children with SCT. Finally, school records will be obtained from each participant’s school to determine if children with SCT have been previously referred for educational evaluation, identified with a special education classification, or received any accommodations or interventions.

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