Bipolar DisorderChildren's Mental Health

7 Ways to Help Children with Bipolar Disorder Succeed in School

By July 3, 2013July 8th, 2013No Comments

9773503_sBipolar disorder is a mental illness that, left unchecked, can create serious issues for children at school. Symptoms of the disorder such as cycling mania and depression coupled with abrupt mood swings make it difficult for children to concentrate and learn. Much like ADHD, which early onset bipolar disorder is often mistaken for, there are many adaptations that can be made to the classroom environment that allow for a more positive learning experience.

According to a recent article outlined at Families.com, parents can ask that the following reasonable adaptations be made to support their child’s learning.

  1. A five minute warning should be provided to children by the teacher prior to switching activities so that they can properly separate themselves from the task at hand.

  2. Children need to receive praise when they are performing as instructed. In this manner, good behavior is supported through positive reinforcement.

  3. Anyone responsible for supplying a child with medication needs to be properly trained and aware of potential side effects.

  4. Frequent meetings with the child’s teacher may be needed to help identify triggers – such as time of day, onset of certain activities, etc. which may activate manic episodes so that outbursts can be minimized.

  5. Suicidal comments or acts of violence should never be ignored or taken lightly. Additionally, parents and the school counselor should always be notified of such incidents.

  6. Parents can request that another adult be made available in the event their child becomes unruly. Plans for how such situations will be handled need to be arranged in advance. One solution might be to create a neutral zone where the child can unwind without disrupting the class. Another might be to have the child walk off frustration or breathe deeply to regain composure.

  7. Teachers need to receive sufficient training on how to support children with bipolar disorder so they know what to expect, what medications the child is taking, and when the parent should receive a phone call. If the teacher seems unwilling to oblige, follow up with the school principal with regard to placement.

Bipolar disorder, while serious, is both manageable and treatable. With proper support and knowledge, children who have bipolar disorder can lead a very fulfilling and productive life. Check in with your local Family Guidance Center for more resources to help children living with mental illness.