Swivel to Success
Bipolar Disorder in the Classroom
The Student with Bipolar Disorder: An Educator's Guide
Teacher Training: Four Part Webinar Series
  A powerful guide that offers hope, encouragement and new perspectives for educators as they tackle tough classroom situations. This book shows the educational impact of the illness and gives educators the tools to help their student find success. 
Teaching children with bipolar disorder can be both rewarding and challenging. This free downloadable brochure gives a concise overview of helping students with bipolar disorder.
The Webinar Series: Listen to our 4 part teacher training webinar series presented to the teachers of the state of Nebraska in association with ESU 13.
Frequently Asked

How does bipolar disorder affect a child in the classroom?

​Bipolar disorder can have many effects on a student in the classroom. Symptoms of both depression and mania can interfere with learning and make it difficult for the student to pay attention, stay on task, remain focused, and maintain motivation. In addition, cognitive effects may be seen in multiple areas including executive functioning, memory, and organizational skills. Bipolar disorder can also affect the child's ability to correctly process facial expressions and the emotional meaning of language. This can cause conflict with peers and staff, making social interaction a challenge.
?Isn't this just a behavioral issue
​Bipolar disorder is a medical condition which affects thinking, energy, moods and behaviors. When the child is stable, he or she may be one of the best behaved students in your classroom. However, instability can cause the child to have odd and oppositional type behaviors. Bipolar disorder is not caused by a lack of discipline or guidance. It is a highly heritable illness that can be passed from generation to generation. It is important for educators to understand the symptoms of bipolar disorder in order to give assistance to students with this condition.
?How can I help a student with bipolar disorder in the classroom
​One of the biggest things you can do as an educator to help your student with bipolar disorder is to get to know him or her. When you know your student better, you will see when his symptoms are interfering with his class work. When you have a good relationship with your student, you can work collaboratively to have the best classroom experience. If your student feels that you are there to help and that he can trust you, then you have the basis for success. There are many degrees of symptom severity. Your student may need more support in the classroom than you can give on your own.
?Do children with bipolar disorder qualify for an IEP
​In one study on children with bipolar disorder, approximately 80 percent were receiving services through special education. Some children with bipolar disorder are able to receive accommodations under a Section 504 plan but many need the extra services available under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. A child with bipolar disorder may qualify under the category of "Other Health Impaired."
?What accommodations may be helpful
Accommodations should be personalized to the students needs. Some of the more common accommodations for children with bipolar disorder include: a second set of books at home, extended time on testing, reduced work during times of in stability, reduced classroom size, limiting sensory input such as noise and light, organizational assistance, and a safe place to go to when emotionally distressed. Accommodations also must address medication side effects. These accommodations may include: unlimited use of the bathroom and water fountain, being able to eat crackers to calm upset stomach and so on.
?How can I improve my classroom environment 
​Children with bipolar disorder frequently have difficulty processing sensory stimulation. Analyze your classroom from the perspective of your student. Sitting by the pencil sharpener or a noisy air conditioner may overly tax this student as he or she tries to process these noises. Overhead lighting should also be examined. If your student is overly stimulated by these bright lights, consider turning a section of lights off and using a dimmer area for this student. Ask your student about things in the classroom that bother him. Making minor adjustments can make a major difference!
Can kids with bipolar disorder also have learning disabilities? 
​Children with bipolar disorder may also have a learning disability. Some experts believe that as many as half of these children have a writing disorder and many of them have difficulty in processing information correctly. If a student with bipolar disorder is struggling in the classroom, he should be referred for a complete educational evaluation to determine all of his educational needs.
Can a child with bipolar disorder also be gifted? 
​Children with bipolar disorder may also be highly gifted. Many of them are creative, artistic, and talented. Seeing past their disability to their strengths will help you value these students. Educators can do much to help these students value themselves as well.
Where can I get more information? 
​It is commendable that you want more information to help your student with bipolar disorder. The book "SWIVEL to Success - Bipolar Disorder in the Classroom: A Teacher's Guide to Helping Students Succeed" was written specifically to give teachers more help. Also, please download a free copy of "The Student with Bipolar Disorder: An Educator's Guide" and "My School Day" to understand how accommodations can have a positive effect. Feel free to take advantage of our recorded four part webinar teacher training at no charge. We also have many additional links at the bottom of this page. Please especially note the articles on cognitive dysfunction in psychiatric disabilities and brain abnormalities in childhood bipolar disorder. Thank you for caring about a student with bipolar disorder.



This essay by Tracy Anglada was originally published on the web and later included in the appendix of two of her books, Intense Minds and Swivel to Success. It shows the school day from the perspective of a student with bipolar disorder and demonstrates how a little understanding and help can go a long way in making a difference for a child. 
As technology advances we get a glimpse into the workings of the brain which in turn gives an improved understanding of brain disorders. This download shows brain abnormalities which have been associated with childhood onset bipolar disorder. For a more complete discussion of these abnormalities and how they may impact the child, see the book "Swivel to Success"
My School Day without Help
Brain Abnormalities Associated with Childhood Bipolar Disorder
My School Day with Help



Dealing with Cognitive Dysfunction Associated with Psychiatric Disability is a very useful handbook made available by the New York State Office of Mental Health
Bipolar disorder is an illness that doesn't stand still. The symptoms of the illness can range from severely ill to stable. This chart helps teachers and parents clarify how to best meet the needs of the child during various stages of the illness.
Cognitive Dysfunction Handbook
Level of Stability/Flexibility in School



Students with bipolar disorder may have multiple sensory sensitivities. This checklist will help you evaluate your classroom environment and make modifications to address the needs of those who are hyper sensitive to noise, lighting, temperature and odors.
Accommodations are frequently necessary in the classroom setting for students with bipolar disorder. While these should always be tailored to the individual needs of the student, here are some possible accommodations to help.
Sample Accommodations
Examine Your Classroom Environment



It can take months to recover from an episode that requires hospitalization. Special considerations must be made when a student is received back to school after a hospital stay. This article by Tracy Trudeau gives insight into this important transition.
A very useful brochure about students with "mood lability" which includes those with depression and bipolar disorder.
Accommodating Students with Mood Lability
After Hospitalization
A tool to help your students identify moods, express themselves, and learn social and emotional skills in the classroom and beyond. Gain insight into your student through technology and find the support you need.