Welcome to the ACCTION Lab!
Advancing Community-Centered Interventions in the Chicagoland area!
Dr. Zoe R. Smith
Assistant Professor, Psychology
ACCTION Lab focuses on community-based assessment and intervention (therapy) development for youth with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and cognitive disengagement syndrome (CDS, formerly known as sluggish cognitive tempo or SCT). We are developing trauma- and healing-informed assessments for Black and Latine youth with ADHD. We use community-based participatory research designs to increase engagement and understanding of treatment needs for youth that have been systemically oppressed (e.g., creating culturally responsive interventions for Black and Latina/o/e youth by listening to needs of the community and allowing flexibility in the intervention development) from mental health treatment. We focus on working with Black and Brown youth and their families using a cultural responsiveness and healing-focused lens. This is particularly important for youth with ADHD, who often face discrimination in school, the medical system, and from peers. Dr. Z also has expertise in longitudinal data analyses and psychometrics (see consultation section if interested in statistical services).
1. Serve families in our community and decrease mental health disparities for adolescents from systemically oppressed backgrounds.
2. Create assessments and interventions for the families we serve, listening to what the community needs.
3. Further understanding of ADHD in groups that have been excluded from research, particularly focused on the comorbidities of CDS and trauma within Black and Brown adolescents with ADHD.
Culturally Responsive Assessments for Teens (CRAFT)
Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Equity Scholars for Action (RWJF-79247), project CRAFT focuses on creating trauma-informed assessments for Black and Latina/e/o adolescents with suspected ADHD. Graduate students will help with psychodiagnostic interviewing with parents and adolescents, neuropsychological tasks, creation of psychodiagnostic reports, and culturally-informed feedback sessions. Graduate students will also have the opportunity to participate in the parent and youth advisory board meetings throughout the project.
Focus groups for creation of CDS intervention
In partnership with Dr. Stephen Becker at Cincinnati Children’s hospital, the ACCTION lab will help facilitate and analyze focus groups with parents, adolescents, and therapists for creation of an CDS intervention. These focus groups will inform manual creation for the first intervention created for young adolescents with ADHD and SCT.
Trauma comorbidities in college students
Created by multiple undergraduate research assistants in the ACCTION Lab, this project focuses on areas of interest related to trauma, ADHD, and CDS. Research questions include how childhood ACEs are associated with CDS and ADHD and what is the experience of Loyola college students with academic accommodations (and how is that associated with mental health difficulties).
In collaboration with RISE lab, we will launch a cross-sectional survey battery in summer 2022 to explore the intersectional experience of LGBTQ+ individuals living with ADHD. Based upon the preliminary data and student interest, we may complete follow-up interviews with some of the participants about their experiences as an LGBTQ+ person living with ADHD.
Cognitive Disengagement Syndrome (CDS) formerly known as Sluggish Cognitive Tempo
CDS is a set of behavioral symptoms that include maladaptive daydreaming (i.e., being disengaged from your environment so often it has negative consequences), mental confusion/fogginess, and slowed behavior/thinking. It is associated with higher levels of mental health difficulties, academic and social impairment, and sleep problems. We will continue exploring the association of CDS and its association with multiple areas of impairment, but also start focusing on areas of strength (e.g., creativity, thoughtfulness, positives of mind wandering). This will be driven by both Dr. Z and student interest.
Dissemination of work on social media
Although not an explicit research project, ACCTION lab and its members take dissemination of our work very seriously. Lab members get to be thoughtful and creative (see Meet Sally infographic by lab alumni Mia Tyler) by developing infographics and other materials to disseminate more widely to families we serve. These allow for our research to be digested by more people outside of journal pay walls and jargon.
What is ADHD?
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that starts in childhood (prior to age 12) and often continues into adulthood. People with ADHD can look very different and there are 3 presentations of ADHD. ADHD Predominantly Inattentive Presentation includes 6 or more symptoms of inattention and 5 or less symptoms of hyperactivity/impulsivity that is impairing/distressing in daily life. ADHD Combined Presentation includes 6 or more symptoms of both inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity that are impairing/distressing in daily life. Finally, ADHD Predominantly Hyperactivity/Impulsive Presentation (the least common, but still exists!) includes 6 or more symptoms of hyperactivity/impulsivity and 5 or less symptoms of inattention.
People with ADHD are wonderful, smart, creative, and fun! ADHD is usually a life long diagnosis and there are many treatments (e.g., therapy, academic skill building, medication) that can help increase healthy habits and decrease any impairments related to ADHD symptoms.
There are 3 presentations of ADHD:
ADHD Predominantly Inattentive Presentation
ADHD Combined Presentation
ADHD Predominantly Hyperactive/Impulsive Presentation
What is cognitive disengagement syndrome?
CDS used to be called sluggish cognitive tempo but is now named cognitive disengagement syndrome to better capture the different symptoms. Those behavioral symptoms include maladaptive daydreaming (i.e., being disengaged from your environment so often it has negative consequences), mental fogginess/confusion, and slowed behavior/thinking. It is a relatively newly studied area of mental health.
Symptoms can include:
Lost in a fog / mentally foggy
Stares blanking into space / stares a lot
Loses train of thought
Gets lost in own thoughts
Spaces or zones out
Seems to be in their own world
Forgets what they are going to say
Gets mixed up
Thinking is slow
Difficulty expressing thoughts
Behavior is slow / sluggish
Drowsy or sleepy during the day or a drowsy/sleep appearance
Low level of activity
Easily tired or fatigued
Underactive compared to others
What are "community-centered" interventions?
Another great question!
Community-centered means that we create interventions, treatments, and resources focused on what the communities we serve need (e.g., Chicago area, adolescents with ADHD and/or SCT, families of youth with ADHD and/or SCT). That means we listen to the lived experiences (i.e., listen to what life is like for you!) of the communities we serve and create help where it is needed.
Interventions in our lab mean that we create ways to help people in our community. We focus on increasing healing and wellbeing for youth and their families, which can look like many different things. One intervention we have created is focused on creating healing and trauma-informed assessments for Black and Latina/o/e adolescents with ADHD (see Project CRAFT).
Healing and Liberation
In this lab we acknowledge the oppressive systems that exist in Chicago and advocate toward liberation. This is being community-centered, meaning we will listen to and create interventions for the community needs. We work to dismantle oppressive systems, including current mental health systems that are not working for most people.
Please share anything about your needs to help increase wellbeing, healing, and liberation either by emailing us at ACCTIONLab@luc.edu & firstname.lastname@example.org or by filling out this form: