Transition of adolescent students with bipolar disorder from hospital to receiving schools, the educational aftercare planning process

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Trudeau, Tracey Lynn
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Youth who develop Bipolar Disorder have widely varied patterns of school functioning that are reflective of individual cognitive and affective status during each recovery stage. Since the likelihood of a student with Bipolar Disorder being hospitalized at some point is very high, and lengths of hospitalization can range from weeks to years, the educational needs of these ill youth must be considered while in hospital. When these students are discharged to community-based services, educational aftercare planning and the transition process back to receiving schools are important factors in determining future academic and occupational success. Psychiatric and educational profiles of these students (n = 33) admitted to an inpatient psychiatric facility were examined via a case review. Perspectives on the transition planning process were examined through interviews with key inpatient staff and staff at receiving schools. Overall, this sample of Bipolar youth was characterized by difficulties with cognitive abilities post-illness onset, concerns about social-emotional and stigma issues in returning to community school, and erratic patterns of hospitalization and school attendance. Despite the ongoing struggles with mental status, most subjects were able to return to community schooling due to collaborative planning strategies of inpatient and receiving school staff. The most significant barriers to successful transition was lack of student/parental consent to share illness and assessment information with the school, and treatment non-adherence. The findings are significant in that they provide a comprehensive picture of the emotional and cognitive challenges this relatively rare group of students face in attending community school.