Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder involving severe changes in mood, behavior, thinking and energy level. When this happens to children, it must be considered seriously as these fluctuations in mood may affect their school life adversely. Children with bipolar disorder are always at risk for school failure and classroom misbehavior. The good thing is that, if they are given good support in the classroom, it is possible for such children to be stable in behavior and successful in their studies.
Since bipolar disorder affects all aspects of a student’s life, a coordinated effort by the concerned adults is necessary to help the student to be success. The team of adults must include the teacher, parents, family members, psychiatrist and special education teacher (if available). Of all these members, the role of the teacher is most important in handling the student’s behavior in the class.
The skills that make a teacher successful with normal students are essential when dealing with a student with bipolar disorder. The teacher of the bipolar disorder student must have the following qualities:
Patience enough to ignore or forgive minor negative behaviors from the student.
Encourage and praise the student for even minor positive behavior.
The ability to be calm.
Good conflict management skills to resolve conflicts in a positive manner.
Capacity for acceptance to be able to work in close relationship with the parents and doctor of the student.
Be aware of the changes in medication of the child (for that a good rapport with the parents is necessary).
During times of class change, the teacher must be in good coordination with the new teacher
Students with bipolar depression are very vulnerable to stress that can easily overwhelm their coping skills so it important to avoid situations of stress. Good communication between school and home is essential. The school needs to inform parents regularly about the progress in education and the parents should inform the school regularly about the changes in illness or medication. During a manic mood children may react violently to everything. At this time, the teacher should divert the extra energy within the student by engaging physical activities that help to release the excess energy.
When the child is in depressed or sad mood, the teacher may have to cut short assignments. The student should not be penalized for tiredness and the teacher must provide all support to effectively contain the situation. Sometimes the mere question “what happened to you?” will be enough for the student to get back into the track. A good teacher must identify such situations. Thus, with appropriate support from the school and teaching staff, students with bipolar disorder can successfully complete their education and become productive citizens.