Bipolar Disorder in Children: School Issues - Topic Overview
Even with treatment, symptoms of bipolar disorder can be difficult to
manage and can make school challenging. Regular and honest communication with
your child and his or her teachers, guidance counselors, coaches, and school
administrators can be the most important way to help your child succeed.
Education professionals are experts at helping students with special
needs. But they must be kept up to date and informed about
what they can do to help. By law, school districts are required to make sure
students with conditions like bipolar disorder are given accommodations to help
You should work with your child and his or her teachers and guidance
counselors to build an individualized education program (IEP) that takes into
account your child's specific needs. A detailed IEP lets each teacher and staff
member who works with your child know exactly what he or she can do to help
your child. The IEP requires regular reviews and meetings to make adjustments
and keep up with any changing needs.
A few accommodations that the school may make to help your child
- Reducing homework or extending deadlines for
assignments or tests.
- Allowing a late start to school if the child
is having problems with fatigue or is not sleeping at
- Designating a knowledgeable staff member who the child can go to
if needed during the school day.
- Providing special attention or
assistance during class if the child needs help sitting still or
- Providing a small class size, which may help improve your
child's ability to focus during manic episodes. Bipolar disorder does not
affect the child's intelligence, so the child should not necessarily be placed
in a special education class with children who have learning
- Having daily or weekly communication between parents
and teachers (through phone, notes, or email) regarding the child's behavior
and progress both at home and at school.
- Attending summer school,
to help keep your child at the appropriate grade level if he or she misses too
much school during the regular school year.
- Providing tutoring
during extended absences.
- Using a keyboard or recording a class
lecture if the child is having difficulty focusing when taking
- Placing the child in enrichment programs, such as art,
music, or other areas where the child shows strength.
- Allowing free access to the water fountain and
bathroom, especially during manic episodes when keeping his or her body still
can be challenging.