Individuals with bipolar disorder may experience any of the limitations discussed
below. The degree of limitation will vary among individuals. Not all students
with bipolar disorder will need CAMS (compensations, accommodations, modifications, strategies) to perform in school and many
others may only need a few CAMS. Regardless, each student’s case should be evaluated on an individual basis with an
Independent Needs Assessment Protocol done by an Educational Strategist & Consultant or Special Educational Needs Consultant
(SEN). The following is a sample of possible CAMS for students with bipolar disorder.
Other CAMS solutions may exist so check with an Educational Strategist & Consultant or Special Educational Needs
Consultant (SEN) for more information.
1. What limitations the student with bipolar disorder is experiencing?
2. How these limitations affect the student and the student's school performance?
3. What specific activities or tasks are problematic as a result of these
4. What CAMS are available to reduce or eliminate these problems? Are all
possible resources being used to determine possible CAMS?
5. Are all possible resources being used to determine possible CAMS?
6. Has the student with bipolar disorder been consulted regarding possible
CAMS? Does the student know how s/he learns best?
7. Once CAMS are in place, would it be useful to talk with the student and/or
team to evaluate the effectiveness of the CAMS and to determine whether additional or different CAMS are needed?
8. Do parents and school staff need training regarding bipolar disorder?
9. Schedule time to meet with
the Educational Strategist & Consultant or Special Educational Needs Consultant (SEN) to determine how to communicate
needed CAMS with the school team and how to document.
Maintaining Stamina during the School Day:
Allow flexible scheduling
longer or more frequent breaks
Provide additional time to learn new tasks, activities, and responsibilities
self-paced work completion
Provide support and opportunities for when the student needs to take breaks
for time for counseling, coaching, or support
Allow independent learning at home or other placement during part of the day or week
part-time school schedule
Reduce distractions in the student’s seating or work area
space enclosures or a quiet place to listen or study
Allow for use of white noise or environmental sound machines
natural lighting or provide full spectrum lighting
Allow work to be done at home and provide necessary support and equipment
uninterrupted work time
Allow for frequent breaks
Divide large assignments into smaller tasks and goals
task or activity to include only essential functions, teaching, and mastery
Difficulty Staying Organized and
Make daily to do lists and check items off as they are completed
calendars to mark activities and deadlines
Remind student of important deadlines
Use electronic organizers
Divide large assignments into smaller tasks and goals
Working Effectively with Teachers
and Other School Staff:
Provide positive praise and reinforcement
Develop written work agreements including the agreed upon CAMS, clear expectations of responsibilities, and the results
of not meeting performance standards
Allow for open communication with teachers and other school staff
Establish written long-term and short-term goals
Develop strategies to deal with problems as they arise
a procedure to evaluate the effectiveness of the CAMS
Difficulty Handling Stress and
Provide praise and positive reinforcement
to counseling and school assistance programs or personnel
telephone calls during school hours to doctors and others for needed support
sensitivity training to school staff and students
Allow the presence of a support animal or object
Reinforce peer supports
Provide flexible leave for health concerns
a self-paced assignment load and flexible schedule
Allow work to and from home
Provide part-time school schedule
Allow the student to make up time missed efficiently so not to overwhelm
Issues of Change:
Recognize that a change in the school environment or of staff may be difficult
for a person with bipolar disorder
Maintain open channels of communications between the student and the new and old staff in order to ensure an effective
Provide daily, weekly, or monthly meetings with the student to discuss school issues and production level
Situations and Solutions:
A teacher requested information on how to accommodate a student who has reduced
concentration and memory loss due to mental illness. He has trouble with remembering the classroom rules, maintaining a neat
and orderly desk, completing tasks, and checking for accuracy. He has difficulty staying on task and remembering what tasks
he has completed or needs to complete. An SEN Consultant suggested laminating a copy of his daily tasks and checking items
off with an erasable marker. Another suggestion was to use a watch with an alarm set for every hour as a reminder to check
on his other responsibilities.
A student with bipolar disorder had difficulty with short-term memory and
concentration. The student had a very full schedule. The SEN Consultant recommended discussion with the team regarding additional
time for skill building and mastery, written instructions for completing specific tasks, daily checklists, and allowing one
hour each school day to focus on working on or completing assignments.
A student with major depression and bipolar disorder was having difficulties
concentrating on completing her school work. The SEN Consultant recommended discussion
with the team regarding the student’s placement to be a combination of independent study at home and attending some
school activities and classes each day.