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Bipolar Disorder in Children: School Issues

Table of Contents


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 them succeed.

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 include:

During a severe depressive or manic episode, you may need to request a "time-out" from heavy academic requirements for your child to help reduce stress and to keep the child from falling too far behind. Your child may not need a reduction in schoolwork for most mood episodes. But if the symptoms are severe, this reduction may help keep the child on track at school. You may also want to think about getting extra help (such as a tutor) when needed to assist your child in keeping up with schoolwork.

If your child's symptoms are severe, placement in a day hospital or residential treatment center that treats children with bipolar disorder may be helpful in meeting your child's needs during an extended illness. But these treatment centers are not always available. It can also be helpful if a designated teacher at your child's school is specially trained in dealing with children who have bipolar disorder. This person can be a good resource and a "safe person" for your child to go to for help during the school day, if needed.

If your school is not understanding or does not support your child's special needs for periodically reduced academic performance, you may be able to work with your child's doctor to get those needs met in the school system. Supporting your child, while not letting the child use bipolar disorder as an excuse to miss assignments, can help him or her develop and succeed academically and socially.


Credits for Bipolar Disorder in Children: School Issues

Current as of: June 16, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
John Pope MD - Pediatrics
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
David A. Brent MD - Child and Adolescent Psychiatry


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