Children With Bipolar in School
If you have a child with bipolar in the school system you will want to create a protective/empowerment support system that surrounds your child. This will help to set the stage for success. No doubt you child has a tall order to fill with learning how to regulate his or her mood swings in addition to all of the work of growing and learning as a child. In addition to this, you child may need additional support in school where he or she begins the long journey of self discovery away from the comfort and security of the home environment.
We will spend the next few posts addressing different areas of focus for the purpose of co creating with your school officials, a healthy and supportive educational and social environment for your child. Below are a few things for you to consider as you embark on this worthwhile project.
1. Develop a relationship with the child’s teachers: Often, a teacher will send out e-mails or notes to parent of the children in their classroom. If you receive on, respond. If at all possible, make an appointment to meet with your child’s teacher to discuss your concerns about your child, to share your insights about your child with your teacher, and to discuss your child’s needs.
2. Develop a relationship with School Personnel: In addition to reaching out to your child’s teacher, reach out to the rest of the school personnel. Get to know them well, and make an effort to know them also. This is the community that is best structured to help you to co create a supportive community environment for you child. It is already established. Your work will be to “plug into” this community system, and become a part of it. This supportive community will be of great value as you navigate through the next several years with your child. Consider keeping a note book that lists the school personal, a little info about all of the relationships that you build, with contact information. School personnel that you will want to connect with, or at least know how to connect with include (but is not limited to)
a. School Principal
c. Office Secretary
d. School counselor
e. District Superintendent
3. If your child is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you may very likely be able to request an IEP. This is an Individualized Educational Plan that includes the input of a team of professionals who are involved with your child’s care. This provides you with an opportunity to tailor the educational process to meet your child’s specific individual educational needs and to get the supports that your child might need in order to be successful. My next post will elaborate on IEPs
4. Request a tutor if needed: If you child has an IEP, this can be addressed in the IEP.
5. Get additional family members or caregivers involved: Working with the school system can be an enormous task. If you have developed your own support system, and you have additional family members or caregivers that you trust and can authorize; ask them to be a part of your child’s educational support team. Work with them to break down functions and tasks, and develop a communication system so that you can synchronize your efforts on behalf of your child.
6. Visit the classroom often: There are many opportunities to visit the classroom. And, you may ask the teacher to allow you to sit in on occasion. This will not only show your child how much you support him or her, but will also keep you informed so that you understand what your child is learning and doing in real time in the real classroom. This will be invaluable if you can do this. If you cannot, then perhaps a family member or additional support person can, and then communicate with you so that you are in the loop.
7. Better yet, participate in the classroom if you can: become an art docent, or help the teacher grade papers, help plan parties, etc.
8. If you are a busy working parent and cannot participate in the classroom as much as you would like, connect and e-mail the teacher often. Perhaps there are contributions that you can make easily (picking up cupcakes on your way home from work for tomorrows classroom party etc…)
9. Inoculate against bullying: By staying in contact with the school community you already position yourself to work through issues as they come up. You will also want to monitor your child’s social circle, and teach him/her social skills if needed. (I will elaborate on this in future posts)
This is certainly not all inclusive. And you can see by this list, that there are many avenues through which you can connect and participate, and remain involved in your child’s school community life. See which ones are practical for you to focus on and take this one step at a time. By doing so, you will be engaged and aware of your child’s progress and needs, and will be able to position yourself to support your child in being successful.
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