As a therapeutic school whose students face many different types of learning differences, the St. Anthony School has a depth of experience with students with Bipolar Disorder. Previously known as Manic Depression, Bipolar disorder is biological in nature and causes severe fluctuations in energy, mood, thinking, and behavior. The following list of commonly seen behaviors is from The Balanced Mind Foundation:
Bipolar Disorder Common Behaviors in Children
- Crying for no apparent reason
- An expansive or irritable mood
- Rapidly changing moods lasting a few minutes to a few days
- Explosive, lengthy, and often destructive rages
- Separation anxiety
- Defiance of authority
- Hyperactivity, agitation, and distractibility
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Night terrors
- Impaired judgment, impulsivity, racing thoughts
- Dare devil behaviors
- Grandiose belief in personal abilities
- Extreme irritability
Children with Bipolar Disorder Risks
Some bipolar children will exhibit most of these behaviors, others just a few. Children with bipolar disorder are at risk for school failure, substance abuse, and suicide. While often difficult to diagnose early on, it is imperative that these students receive treatment as early as possible. The lifetime mortality rate for bipolar disorder (from suicide) is higher than childhood cancers.
Treatment for Bipolar Disorder
Treatment for bipolar disorder at The St. Anthony School has two major components: medical and educational. Since medication plays such a vital role in the treatment of this particular disorder, our staff is required to have a working knowledge of medications: both the benefits and the side effects. Standard medications for this disorder include mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and anti-psychotics. The teachers and therapeutic staff monitor medication closely and report changes in behavior, mood, etc. to our program directors. They in turn will contact the student’s physician with feedback. Often, an adolescent will feel better with their medication and think that it is no longer required. A knowledgeable staff will recognize the change in behavior and act promptly.
The Educational Side of Bipolar Disorder for DFW Children
The other treatment component is comprised of (1) successful teaching strategies, (2) the staff’s ability to handle changing moods and challenging behaviors, (3) flexibility in adjusting schedules, and (4) modification of the physical environment.
While medication helps these children to control their behavior, they are still influenced to a great degree by their surroundings and the adults who are assisting them through their day.These children need teachers who are calm, firm, positive, and patient. We hire knowledgeable and experienced teachers at St. Anthony’s; on-going training and education in all our specialized techniques is required of every staff member.
With appropriate educational support and understanding, pharmacological treatment, and environmental modification, students with bipolar disorder can successfully complete school and become happy and productive citizens.