Sluggish Cognitive Tempo

I really love writing light and positive posts on here. That’s the person that I try to be in my day to day life, so that’s what I like to share with others. Mr. AJ, on the other hand, loves a good argument, so I usually leave the more confrontational posts to him.

But there are some issues that I just can’t keep quiet about. (Especially when they involve kids) Lately, I’ve been reading various articles about a new mental health diagnosis that they’re thinking about introducing: sluggish cognitive tempo. It’s similar to ADHD, in that it focuses on children’s difficulty concentrating and paying attention, but that’s where most of the similarity ends. According to the researchers, some children currently diagnosed (or misdiagnosed) with ADHD, would actually be diagnosed with Sluggish Cognitive Tempo instead. Additionally, by one researcher’s measure, one million children, who previously did not fit the criteria for ADHD, would be diagnosed with this as well (reference: Idea of New Attention Disorder Spurs Research, and Debate).

More misdiagnosed kids, and more kids on medication?… I definitely don’t like the sound of that.


In the interest of being open and honest:
Before I took a recent break to be full time wife and mommy, I was a full time counselor and part time mommy and wife. (yikes…but that’s another story) Those that know me well, also know that I’m not fond of the idea that medication is needed to fix everything. (So keep those things in mind as you read on)

What Is “Sluggish Cognitive Tempo”?

What is sluggish cognitive tempo, anyway? Well, the researchers aren’t positive on the exact symptoms yet, but they have started clinical trials to see if a current ADHD medication can treat it.

Symptom wise, this is what we have so far:

  • daydreaming
  • forgetfulness
  • staring frequently
  • lethargy
  • slow mental processing, and
  • sleepiness

Does something seem off about this list to anyone else? Last I checked, daydreaming is a completely healthy and child–appropriate behavior.

Interpreting The Symptoms

Do those symptoms remind you of anything else? Personally, if someone brought their child to see me, the first questions I would ask is if they were:

  • sleeping enough
  • eating nutritionally rich foods, and
  • engaging in a good amount of physical activity

Lacking any of those three things wrecks havoc in our bodies, and  can cause these types of symptoms. Think about the last time you were really tired. Doesn’t this sound similar?

Now, what if we consider different learning styles or personality types? Some children have a hard time focusing in a traditional classroom setting because they have a different learning style; not a disorder. Do we medicate those children because they don’t fit the mold?

A Real Life Example

During one of my internships (when I was studying to become a counselor) I had the chance to work with kids at a nearby elementary school. The school counselor was extremely busy and overloaded, and saw that she couldn’t keep up with all of the kids’ needs on her own. So, she asked for help.

The kids were overloaded, and so were their teachers. They had so many tests and required work that they were in a constant state of tired. (Not to mention their responsibilities and stressors at home) Counseling helped, but as in a lot of cases, it was the first thing to go when teachers needed more time. Don’t get me wrong, the staff at this school was amazing. They really wanted to help these kids, but their hands were tied when it came to certain requirements.

Does medication save us time and leave us with better focused children? Maybe, but it also leaves us with kids who don’t actually learn how to work through situations and feelings. Not everything has to be a mental health diagnosis. Some children learn differently and focus differently, but that does not have to equate to a new mental health disorder.

Here’s a Thought…

How about we let children daydream once in awhile; we let them stare out of that window, and instead of assuming that something is wrong, we ask them questions. We encourage their creative and day-dreamy side just as much as their focused and studious side. Afterall, who really wants every child to act exactly the same?

Alright, I’m done. My next post will be much lighter...  I promise.

Until then, leave a comment and let me know what you think.


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