Center for ADHD
Cognitive Disengagement Syndrome Program

Cognitive Disengagement Syndrome Program

Over the past decade, researchers in the Center for ADHD have conducted research on children and adolescents who have cognitive disengagement syndrome (CDS), previously called “sluggish cognitive tempo" (SCT). CDS includes a different set of attention problems than those in ADHD. These include excessive mind-wandering, getting lost in thoughts, mental fogginess and spacing or zoning out. Rather than appearing hyperactive or restless, children with CDS are more sleepy, lethargic, tired and slower to complete daily activities.

Up to half of the children who have ADHD are believed to also experience symptoms of CDS, especially those who have the Inattentive presentation. However, CDS can also be present in children who do not have ADHD. Also, children and adolescents with CDS as well as ADHD are more likely to experience anxiety, depression, sleep problems and social withdrawal than those who only have ADHD.

CDS is oftentimes unfamiliar to families, teachers and clinical providers. Despite the clear need, no CDS-specific services have previously been available. We are excited to offer the Cognitive Disengagement Syndrome Program in the Center for ADHD at Cincinnati Children's. This specialty program offers evaluations and treatment services for children and adolescents ages 6 to 17.

Treatments and Services

An assessment for CDS includes:

  • A parent diagnostic interview
  • A child diagnostic interview
  • A feedback session
  • A psychological evaluation report with recommendations tailored to CDS

Treatment services for CDS may include:

  • Psychoeducation on CDS
  • School-based resources
  • Behavioral parent training
  • Academic skills training
  • Cognitive-behavioral training
  • Social skills
  • Sleep interventions

The Cognitive Disengagement Syndrome Program is not an appropriate service in the following situations:

  • The child has symptoms of inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity that would be best addressed through our usual ADHD evaluations.
  • The child has been diagnosed with ADHD and the main areas of concern are disruptive behaviors or non-compliance. Our ADHD parenting groups or family therapy services are most appropriate.
  • The adolescent has been diagnosed with ADHD and is primarily having academic or school problems. Our academic success groups would be most appropriate.
  • The child is younger than 6 or older than 17.
  • The child has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, global developmental disability or down syndrome.