Need resources/help for a 9 year old with ADHD

Looking for support and resources from the community for a 9 year old boy diagnosed with ADHD. We've been struggling with basic things like homework, getting ready for school, following instructions. Regular complaints from school about bad behavior, inattention, missed homework/schoolwork etc. He is also falling behind in school though he is quite capable of doing better.

We have a 504 plan from public school but it just allows for basic things like seating in front of teacher and breaks between long tasks. Though these are useful, they are not enough. We've put off medication(adderall) because of potential side affects for now and want to explore therapy. But, finding it very hard to find knowledgeable therapists who could help. We also want to explore alternate treatments (diet etc) to see if those might help.

For people/families who've found things that helped please share recommendations. We live in the east bay (Fremont).

Thank you so much!

Parent Replies

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ADD kids are wonderful and amazing and hard to parent! I was one; I'm still parenting one (now a young adult). Extra fun when they are 2E (gifted with ADD).

I doubt much has changed since my child was that age--schools and teachers generally do not understand nor support ADD kids well. The 504s can help, but they are not a solution to living with ADD. Living with ADD takes a wrap around approach--home, school, support services. Yes, dietary changes may help. Yes, skill building (kid, family, care givers) definitely helps.

I was never able to find a one-stop shop for parents. I had to patch together resources myself. High quality neuropsychological and educational psychological testing was very helpful to understand my child's specific challenges, and provided helpful recommendations. I can recommend Morrisey-Compton, but they are on the Peninsula. I don't know any on the East Bay.

I recommend reading Dr. Hallowell's and Dr. Brown's books, and considering the full range of skills and medications used to treat ADD, and often underlaying anxiety and/or depression (can come on as the kids get older if the ADD is left untreated).

If I had it to do all over again, I would have taken a deep breath and not worried so much about school performance. I wish I had gotten myself some therapeutic support and created a more supportive home environment that celebrated my child rather that working so hard to fix my child to fit into social expectations. And, I wish I had done medication trials with my child much earlier (we waited until after freshman year of high school).

ADD kids come with so many wonderful gifts along with their challenges. I encourage you to focus on the gifts first, and support the challenges second. Love 'em up so they feel good enough about themselves to do the hard work of managing their challenges in finding a life path that suits their many strengths.

Hi! What a great parent you are for reaching out to the community and asking for resources. While this is my specialty, I am a researcher, so initial thoughts are, though it may be very hard to initiate at this age, decreased screen time may  help with attention span in the long run. This is a study for early development but perhaps asking the therapists you’re working with about ways you can start to lower screen time for your kid to increase attention span. Perhaps you’ve already thought of this, but thought I would reach out. Being out in nature and actively engaging with the environment has done wonders for kids health. Ucsf has done plenty of studies involving kids and the outdoors. Best of luck! Your kid is lucky to have you as a parent, looking for ways to help him out!….

In our experience, medication helped. It may or may not help your son but, respectfully, it seems to me you’re experiencing a lot of side effects by  not trying it.

Also, I don’t know if the school district told you he can’t get an IEP with just an ADHD diagnosis but that is not true. If you haven’t spoken to DREDF for more information, I recommend their resources. Good luck!

The best and most important thing that helped us was medication. We did all other things, including fish oil, healthy high protein diet, no tv/electronics, 10-12+ hrs of sleep, exercise, basically anything that had any medical support. Our son's immediate relief that he was finally able to follow instructions and be the kid he knew he was inside was obvious in so many ways.  And something to remember about medication:  it's not permanent and its not surgery.  You can try it and if it works, no one will be happier than all of you.  And if it doesn't, you can stop.  It's out of his system in less than a day.  But you wouldn't stop him from using glasses, or hearing aids or medication for any other condition if he needed it.  There is a lot of anti medication hype but it also wildly effective and positively life changing for kids with ADHD. 

Parent of two neurodivergent kids here, ages 10 and 12.

Awesome that you reached out! It's so important to disrupt the vicious cycle of a kid getting ongoing negative feedback from school and/or frustrated family members for things that are out of their control, then starting to develop low self-esteem and/or school trauma. I'd consider protecting his sense of self-worth as a top priority, make sure he has lots of opportunities to shine at doing what he loves, and work from there!

Do you have any specific data from your child about his experience and what he himself perceives as his primary pain points? Does he need to move his body way more than he's allowed? Does he love talking? Is he bored by content?

Do you need an IEP rather than 504? Do you feel your evaluation was thorough? (Was it private, through doctor, or district?) What sort of "bad behavior" are they complaining about?

At this age, for this set of issues, I would be seeking parent support or coaching, rather than therapy per se. You need to get to the bottom of the specific lagging skills or mismatches between his abilities and what his environments are asking of him, and troubleshoot them one at a time.

It can take a while to get comfortable with meds for our kids, I totally respect where you're at. However, for so many ADHDers, they are a game changer! Stimulants are extremely easy to trial: you quickly know the impact, it's easy to stop, and you can trust yourself as parents not to continue anything you don't like. For both of my kids, ADHD meds (started ages 9 and 11) provide a seemingly small but very useful tweak: for one kid, it reduces hyperactivity and aids in emotional regulation; for the other, it allows them to focus for longer periods on reading, and to be more organized. In neither case would we have continued if it changed their personalities, messed up their sleep, etc.! 

I'd be cautious with dietary things. My understanding is there is not any real evidence that specific diets would change the way a person's neurotype shows up (unless some behaviors are are due to an issue that is *not* due to their neurotype, such as allergies). We've found regular infusions of protein are pretty important for mood, especially for a kid who doesn't eat much at one time or is on the move a lot, but that's probably a given for all folks...

I have learned a ton over the years through books, podcasts, and online resources like Facebook groups (carefully chosen!). Tilt Parenting is a great website and podcast (, as is The Neurodiversity Podcast w/Emily Kircher-Morris ( I'd search for your topics of interest, including working w/schools and your rights within schools. Russel Barkley is an OG researcher for understanding ADHD. Penny Williams' book was helpful to me (and she's doing a lot more now, including coaching: You might also check out ADDitude: