FOCUS FORWARD 360: Our Multi-Expert Attention Assessment for Children, Teens, and Adults
Have you ever wondered if you or a member of your family has ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)? People with ADD and ADHD share a common story; they are smart and have goals and dreams. They can all focus—on some tasks for a very long time, very intensely. But they struggle to regulate their focus, which means their attention isn’t something they can count on consistently. Beyond these similarities, stories diverge. Some individuals aren’t doing as well as they could be at school or work, missing deadlines and struggling to start and finish tasks. Other individuals do well at school and work, but they are frustrated by needing to exert tremendous effort over long hours to succeed. Individuals with attention challenges might be described as “unmotivated” or “lazy”—descriptions you know are unfair and untrue. Others are doubted—their long hours of hyperfocus, intelligence, and commitment to work tasks are seen as proof that they don’t have an attention problem. But, in fact, they may have inconsistent focus that requires treatment.
Whether it’s unfair comments, or unfair assumptions, being misunderstood is hurtful and unhelpful. But what can you do? It’s important to figure out whether ADD or ADHD can explain the challenges you are seeing, especially since treatments for ADD and ADHD can be incredibly effective. Help is available, and science shows that specific treatments can make a big difference!
Here are questions we hear often about our Focus Forward 360 Assessment, along with our answers.
With extensive testing, data collection, and clinical interviews, a team of medical and health experts will help you determine whether an Attention Deficit Disorder—like ADD or ADHD—can explain challenges you are seeing. Based on our findings, we’ll suggest an individualized Action Plan. Our report will include accommodation suggestions. We’ll match you or your child to specific psychotherapy or coaching programs to support success. Experts on the Medical Team involved with your assessment will consult with your community doctor and provide a Medication Treatment Plan if you are also interested in medication options.
You might have heard that ADD and ADHD aren’t “real” disorders. Well, science says that viewpoint is wrong. ADHD is a real, physical, neurobiological brain difference. Thousands of scientific studies have proven that fact, so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! Attention deficit disorders can look different in different people. A common theme is difficulty focusing, but some individuals are more hyperactive and impulsive, while others tend to daydream and are not at all hyperactive or impulsive.
Yes. When it comes right down to it, the word “deficit” in ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is misleading. It’s not that people with ADD or ADHD have no attention. More accurately, they can pay attention, but the brain struggles to regulate that attention. So when ADD or ADHD is present, the brain can hyperfocus during activities that are very interesting, but attention drops rapidly for tasks the brain would rather not do. To be clear—a person with ADHD does not choose to be interested in some tasks and disengaged from others. Differences in brain circuitry and in naturally occurring brain chemicals (called neurotransmitters) that support attention in individuals with ADD and ADHD mean that attention is not consistent across situations, no matter how hard someone tries to stay focussed. ADD and ADHD would be better named Attention Dysregulation Disorders, in our opinion, rather than Attention Deficit Disorders. It’s not the absence of attention that’s the challenge; it’s regulating attention so it’s available across all kinds of tasks—easy and difficult, interesting and less interesting.
Yes. Diagnosing ADD and ADHD is complicated. No two people with ADD or ADHD are alike. How well the brain can focus changes with tasks the brain is working through and with time of day. To complicate matters further, symptoms that look like ADD or ADHD might not signal an attention disorder. Figuring out what’s going on takes time, detailed investigation, and expert knowledge. Bottom line: Diagnosing ADD and ADHD can’t be done with a simple checklist. It can’t be done in 15 minutes.
Yes, treating ADD and ADHD is very complicated—and possible. There are many medication and non-medication options out there. Some have scientific support and others don’t. How do you know what’s right for you or your family? How do you know what’s going to make real change happen? With our team of physicians, mental health, and educational professionals, we’ll devise a Treatment Plan that helps you achieve bigger goals and better outcomes. And we’ll only offer treatments that are supported by science. So yes, treating ADD and ADHD is complicated. But we’re confident our experts in attention—and in disorders that can go along with ADD and ADHD like depression and anxiety—will create a Treatment Plan that is backed by science and right for you.
At Possibilities we offer Focus Forward 360, an exciting service where expert clinicians take an in-depth look at attention—whether for you or your child—and make recommendations backed by science to support functioning going forward. We also examine more than attention since challenges with focus can be associated with mental health and learning concerns.
There are 5 sessions you’ll attend in our Focus Forward 360 service:
- In an intake session, you’ll meet with a physician. The doctor will take a detailed medical and developmental history and ask about current and past functioning.
- In another session, you’ll meet with a psychologist. You’ll discuss symptoms and challenges. You’ll also talk about your strengths and goals, and strategies you’ve used in the past that have or haven’t been helpful.
- In a third session, you’ll meet with a psychometrist who will do direct testing of your attention and other cognitive functions like working memory, which is the ability to hold and process multiple pieces of information in your mind at once. The psychometrist will administer additional tests and questionnaires to screen for academic challenges and possible mental health concerns. Responses from others—like teachers or colleagues if you grant permission for us to send questionnaires to them—will help us get a detailed, 360 degree view of attention.
- Before you see our experts again, the 360 Assessment Team will meet and review all of the information you have provided, as well as the testing results. The team will examine report cards we’ll ask you to provide, too, since documented challenges in early elementary school are an important component of an ADD or ADHD diagnosis. After reviewing all information and test results, your 360 Assessment Team will determine whether a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD can be made. The team will also discuss what Treatment Plan is right for you or your child, and document the plan in a report that you and/or your child will receive.
- Next, you’ll meet with the psychologist from your team to discuss the results, any diagnoses that may have been made, and the Treatment Plan. The psychologist will focus on non-medication options for any diagnosis that may have been made—like coaching to support success with ADHD, therapy for anxiety that may be occurring along with attention challenges, or tutoring to support learning differences.
- In your last session, you will meet with a physician from the Focus Forward 360 service to discuss the findings from a medical perspective. Maybe you aren’t sure if medication is the right choice for you or your child. Or maybe you’re eager to explore medication, choosing to integrate medication and non-medication therapies for ADD or ADHD. You’ll be able to ask the physician about medication therapies in detail during this session, so you can make an informed decision that’s right for you. If you choose to proceed with medication, a detailed Medication Plan will be sent to your physician or child’s pediatrician.
At Possibilities we approach assessments from a unique team perspective. That means we involve experts from multiple health fields—like psychology and medicine—in every single assessment that we do, including our comprehensive analysis of attention in our Focus Forward 360 service. Our experts in ADD and ADHD, and in other conditions that can mimic or contribute to attention problems, meet as a team to examine and discuss the data before we make any decisions about whether ADD or ADHD can be diagnosed. A team approach to ADHD—where experts from multiple health fields like psychiatry, paediatrics, family medicine, and psychology come together in real time to discuss your results—makes our assessments of attention comprehensive, firmly grounded in current brain science, and unique.
Our 360 degree perspective is also noteworthy when it comes to treatment. Our specialists have deep expertise in conditions beyond ADD and ADHD. That’s important because ADD and ADHD often occur with other challenges. If we hyperfocus on attention, we might miss other concerns. If that happens, treatment won’t be as successful as it could be. Experts on the 360 Focus Forward team have rich expertise in attention deficit disorders and in other conditions like anxiety, depression, learning challenges and tic disorders. So our specialists, working as a team, can think meaningfully about focus in context and determine how best to treat all challenges that may be present in your profile to maximize success.
If you want to work with our Assessment Team—including the physicians who prescribe medications as part of our personalized Focus Forward 360 service—you or your child will need to participate in the entire assessment. In terms of testing, ways of determining whether someone has ADD or ADHD varies from clinic to clinic. Focus isn’t static either; it can vary over time and over tasks. All experts on the Focus Forward 360 team make recommendations only after an extensive analysis of focus is completed using our 360 process. We do not regard ADD or ADHD as something an adult, teen, or child either has or doesn’t have based on an assessment at a previous point in time. How focus is functioning—right here and right now in all kinds of situations—is our biggest concern. Of course, we’ll look at the results of your previous assessment if you would like us to. But we’ll pursue our own comprehensive 360 analysis of focus in context so we can propose targeted treatments to optimize functioning in areas causing difficulty.
No problem! We can see you or a family member as usual! You or your child would have access to our complete Assessment Team through our Focus Forward 360 service. As part of that service, you will meet with a physician directly to discuss various treatment options, including medication. The physician on your Focus Forward 360 team would then consult with your doctor about the ADHD medications that are best for you or your child based on all the information our team collects. You will also be advised on additional treatment options like coaching and therapy to maximize success. Feel free to provide us with results from your previous ADHD assessment; those results can be useful in our information gathering. However, because our assessments are comprehensive and involve extensive data collection about focus in context—including direct testing of attention with our unique 360 process—our team of experts from psychology, psychometry, and medicine will not be swayed by previous assessment results in a way that decreases our accuracy in making the right diagnosis.
Yes! At Possibilities, our expert team works with you to coordinate medication and non-medication treatments in one clinic. Our specialists know that recommendations can’t be general, and they can’t be vague. Recommendations must be targeted, specific, and supported by science. And they must be personalized for you or your child. For example:
For the college student moving away from home, we can request a single residence room if we have concerns about poor sleep and high distractibility.
For students who struggle to start work and meet deadlines, we can offer programs like ADHD Coaching or therapy.
For the corporate executive challenged with increasing demands, we can identify a plan to parse work and hit targets through ADHD Coaching that adds a corporate lens.
For the person requiring medication support, we can provide a medication plan to the referring physician.
Yes. Experts on our Focus Forward 360 team recognize that demands for attention change over time. New grades, new jobs, new circumstances all present new challenges for attention as time goes on. We recommend a complete Focus Forward 360 analysis of attention, along with the multi-expert treatment review that goes along with our analysis, every 2 years.
No! We are excited to announce that our assessments of attention are now available throughout Ontario over secure video. We conduct direct testing of attention and cognitive functioning over the internet, as well as all interview sessions with clinicians. If you have a computer and a high-speed internet connection, all your appointments and testing can be done from the comfort of your home. During the COVID-19 pandemic, all assessment and therapy sessions offered at the clinic are being conducted through secure video sessions. For your convenience, no matter where you live in Ontario, we will continue to offer video sessions for our Focus Forward 360 service even after the threat of the pandemic has subsided.
At this time, all our physicians and psychologists are licensed to see people only in Ontario. If you live anywhere in Ontario, you can be accessed remotely. If you do not live in Ontario, you or your child can still be assessed but you will need to come down to our central Toronto office. We may be able to change this rule in the future, so stay tuned!