Bipolar Disorder in Children: School Issues

Bipolar Disorder in Children: School Issues


Even with treatment, symptoms of bipolar disorder can be hard to manage. This can make school a challenge. Regular communication with your child and with teachers, coaches, and other staff is an important part of helping your child succeed.

Work with your child and your child's teachers and school counsellor to build an individualized education program (IEP). An IEP may also be called an Individualized Program Plan (IPP). This plan takes into account your child's specific needs. It lets teachers and staff members know how they can help your child. The plan should be reviewed from time to time to keep up with any changing needs.

Helping your child with school issues

Education professionals are experts at helping students succeed in school. But they must be kept up-to-date and informed about what they can do to help.

Here are some things you can do to help your child.

  • Schedule school work.

    Reducing homework or extending deadlines for assignments or tests may help your child complete school work.

  • Adjust the school day.

    A late start to school may be helpful if your child is having problems with fatigue or isn't sleeping at night.

  • Set up a contact person.

    Have a school staff member available who your child can go to if needed during the school day.

  • Have help during class time.

    Your child may need special attention or help during class if they need help to sit still or focus.

  • Choose a small class size.

    A small class size may help improve your child's ability to focus during manic episodes. Bipolar disorder does not affect your child's intelligence, so your child may not need to be placed in a special education class with children who have learning challenges.

  • Talk with your child's teacher.

    Be sure to have daily or weekly communication with the teachers about your child's behaviour and progress both at home and at school. This can be done through phone, notes, or email.

  • Consider summer school.

    Attending summer school may help keep your child at their grade level if they miss too much school during the regular school year.

  • Ask the school about getting a tutor.

    Tutoring during long absences may help your child stay on track.

  • Set up learning options.

    Using a keyboard or recording a class lecture may help if your child finds it hard to focus when taking notes.

  • Ask the school about other activities.

    It may help your child to try activities such as art, music, or things that interest them.

  • Have a plan for manic times.

    It may be helpful if your child has free access to the water fountain and washroom, especially during manic episodes when it can be hard to keep their body still.

  • Get support for yourself.

    Living with or caring for someone who has bipolar disorder can be challenging. It may help to seek your own counsellor or therapist to support you.


Current as of: October 20, 2022

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