Dede Carter

from Minneapolis, MN

My son, Spencer, has a nonverbal learning disability and bipolar disorder. He is one of four children. All of his siblings are normal. (whatever that means!) We have known that there was something wrong since he was about four years old. My training is in social work and family therapy. Since Spencer's difficulties began to emerge, I gave up my career and am working exclusively on trying to manage the household. Spencer alone is a full time job. Right now, he is enrolled in an online school; he spends three out of the five work days at home working online.

Spencer is a success story. I attribute that mostly to the preventative measures my husband and I have taken. We did not stick our heads in the sand and wait to see what would happen. For example, he has never ridden a school bus: too chaotic. We hired tutors, personal care attendants and set up yoga classes for him. He has had OT (Occupational Therapy), sensory integration therapy, social skills classes and individual lessons of all sorts. This sort of program takes three things: money, organizational skills and the ability to look beyond what exists and envision what could exist. Oh, and I almost forgot, it also takes a parent to dedicate a major portion of his or her life to their child. It isn’t easy and is not always fun.

Looking back, what could have been done at the time to improve the situation? Treatment, medication, a different approach, or understanding from others around you?

It took me a long time to realize that I was the expert on my child. Many problems along the way have happened, because I thought others knew, what they were talking about. The traditional school setting is not appropriate for these kids. Children with bipolar disorder need a small school with a staff that knows and understands them. It is an essential part of treatment. If these kids have “depressing” lives at school, don't you think that will contribute to suicidal ideation, especially if a person is predisposed to it? Bipolar children are treatable. We just need to adjust what we are doing. My son has improved a great deal, despite the tremendous hurdles he must leap over every day.

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