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Getting Support for Your Child

Do you have a child who is struggling with academic work or behavioral problems in school and he or she has either been diagnosed with Bipolar, or you and/or your pediatrician suspect that your son or daughter might have Bipolar Disorder? If you do, you may be wondering how you can get the needed support that you will need. We have laws in place that actually protect your child’s rights to supportive services if he/she meets certain criteria.

One type of support that you might seek is an IEP, or Individualized Educational Plan that addresses the specific needs of your child. Another possibility is a 504 which addresses specific modifications that your child might need in order to be successful.

Your child is protected by two federal laws: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; and the more powerful statute enacted in 1975 and reauthorized in 1997 known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Become well informed and educated about Section 504 Options, and Eligibility and Classification under IDEA. Here is a great website for becoming informed- Juvenile Bipolar Research Foundation where you can read The Educational Issue of Students with BipolarDisorder: http://www.bpchildresearch.org/edu_forums/issues.html

An IEP, or Individualized educational plan, is co created by parents and teachers and other support people and service providers and is designed to identify the specific individual needs of your child. The plan then develops goals, objectives, and interventions designed to meet the needs of your child to help him or her reach educational goals. During IDTT meetings, parents, support people, service providers and teachers all come together to discuss how the child learns, acquires skills, and identifies all barriers to learning success. This team also looks for the best possible way to accommodate the child’s learning process and overcome barriers and obstacles to learning, while allowing the child to be in the least restrictive environment. Thus, an IEP helps to ensure that your child will receive the most appropriate services, and also the most appropriate educational setting so that your child will learn social skills, and be able to integrate into community settings as well as learn academically. Having an effective IEP often facilitates the child so that he or she will not need to be placed in a more restrictive “special needs” classroom. With that said, it is also an effective way to determine the best placement.

The “504” in “504 plan” is a plan that is developed to determine modifications and accommodations that are needed for students with disabilities. It is designed to help students with disability to have an opportunity to fully participate at the same level as someone who is not impaired. This is different from an IEP and may or may not apply to your situation.

Make sure you are not making this diagnosis yourself. You will need to have your child evaluated by the appropriate mental health/medical professional. You child will need a full assessment prior to your requesting an IEP. If your child is diagnosed with Bipolar, you might want to then contact a consultant or attorney that specializes in supporting parents in getting their child’s right to an EIP met. However, many school districts are proactive, so you might want to call the superintendent of your school district first, and see what resources and support are already available to you. The school district will likely pay for your child’s testing.

Once you have your child’s accurate diagnosis, if he/she meets the criteria for IEP supportive services, you can initiate the IEP process. Make sure you EIP address the specific variations of mood, energy, attention, behavior, and motivation of your child. Your child’s IEP should also consider any co-occurring developmental or cognitive deficits if applicable. A book titled The Bipolar Child by Demitri Papolos, M. Is a very good resource for you to use when determining the factors that might be included in your child’s IEP. For example, your child may be highly gifted, or may have co-morbid syndromes that result in inability to be attentive, or to be highly distractible, or anxious, or he/she might have difficulty with transitions etc… Developing an IEP for a child with Bipolar is unique and will require special focus on your child’s unique needs. This is a good book for helping you develop a good plan and can be found at Amazon.com

 

More Resources:

About Parenting: http://specialchildren.about.com/od/504s/f/504faq1.htm

Parents of Bipolar Children Online Support Group: http://www.mdjunction.com/parents-of-bipolar-children

 

The Balanced Mind Network: http://www.thebalancedmind.org/

National Alliance on Mental Illness- NAMI: http://www.nami.org/