Bipolar disorder affects learning, and children diagnosed with the disorder need parents and medical professionals as well as supportive educational staff who know this. There are several educational options for your child.

If your child has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, they may still be able to stay in a regular classroom with just some special accommodations made for them. As a parent, it is up to you to see that these accommodations are made so that your child has a positive, stress-free, productive school environment and experience.

You can have a 504 plan in place for your child. The 504 plan refers to an educational plan created under the authority of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This was the first piece of federal legislation to address the needs of the disabled, and it acknowledges that the rights of all disabled individuals are the same as non-disabled individuals.

Specifically, the 504 plan states that a disabled student must receive the same access to a free and appropriate public education as a non-disabled student. Because of a lack of federal funding, however, Section 504 only supports accommodations for disabled students in the regular classroom.

If your child needs more extensive accommodations – such as placement in a 'self-contained' classroom or building, and related services – you will need to have an Individual Education Plan, or IEP, developed for your child. IEPs are mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which is a different piece of legislation than the 504 plan.

To help determine which special educational services that your child needs, you need to first request a meeting with your child's teacher, school principal, and guidance counselor. Do this either before the beginning of the school year or as soon as possible after your child is diagnosed. Be sure to also bring documentation of your child's diagnosis (a letter from your doctor or copy of your child’s medical record) and any information about pediatric bipolar disorder which you think might be helpful.

Then your child will undergo several tests. After the tests have been scored, the testing report written, and the relevant reports from the doctors and therapists evaluated, then you meet again with representatives from your child's school district, such as the principal and school psychologist from your child's school (and, possibly, the school guidance counselor).

After this meeting, you and the professionals discuss your child's eligibility for special education services under IDEA, and you will also write your child's first IEP.

The IEP has two general purposes: (1) to set reasonable, measurable, and obtainable learning and behavioral goals for your child; and (2) to state the services that the school district will provide for your child.

A regular classroom can be modified in many ways to accommodate a student with bipolar disorder. A particular student’s needed accommodations will vary according to the frequency, severity, and duration of that child's symptoms.

If the public school option does not work out for your child, you may consider private school. The benefits of a private school education for the child with bipolar disorder are that the classroom size is smaller and that your child can receive a more one-on-one education. Even without a 504 plan and/or IEP, accommodations can be made for your child more easily. The disadvantages, however, are that a private school education is very expensive, and there may not be one in your area and you may have to travel some distance, rather than have your child simply ride the bus.

If the 504 plan and/or IEP in public school or private school options do not work out for your child, you still have another educational option: homeschooling. If you believe that your child would do better by learning at home than in public or private school, you may want to consider homeschooling. This form of schooling is legal in all 50 states. However, you should contact the department of education in your state and complete the necessary paperwork before pursuing homeschooling.