Though children with bipolar disorder are often gifted, they require patience and new approaches to help them learn and grow. Here are eight teaching strategies to help these students excel in the classroom.
#1 Flexibility works best
It is best to adapt a more flexible lesson plan for children with bipolar disorder. Additional time for assignments and tests may be required and understanding given for missed classes due to appointments with health care professionals.
#2 Consistent schedules
Children who live with bipolar require flexibility with their schedules such as incorporating many breaks throughout the day to aid with focus and staying positive. It’s important; however, that this routine stay consistent.
#3 Few distractions
Distractions can cause more disruptive behaviors and can negatively affect the student’s ability to focus. Some students will need to be seated near the front of the room to help reduce the distractions.
#4 Practice patience
Understand that the child’s grades may drop or he could participate less in class activities. Practice tolerance in dealing with minor problems and, instead of focusing on negative conduct, recognize and praise the positive behavior.
#5 Maintain good communication
There should be open lines between educators, the school and the child’s parents/guardians, psychologist or other health care professionals. It is important to practice good communication and be ready to adapt and try different approaches for the child if something is not working.
#6 Have a plan
It’s essential that teachers watch for extreme behavioral changes or any signs of suicidal thoughts. These signs should be taken seriously and a plan should be in place about how school staff should respond to such situations. The plan can be decided ahead between the child’s parents, psychologist and teachers.
#7 Accommodate special needs
May children with bipolar disorder need to visit the school nurse regularly for medication or talk to a school psychologist. And, especially for children taking lithium, they may need to carry a water bottle and have unlimited access to restrooms.
#8 Agree on a safe place/person
Children suffering from bipolar can feel overwhelmed or anxious or they may be unsure of how to deal with their strong emotions and feel out of control. It’s important to establish both a safe place and a safe person they can go to in times of distress. Allow them access to leave the classroom on their own.