Review of "What Works for Bipolar Kids"

By Mani Pavuluri
Guilford Press, 2008
Review by Stephanie Sarkis, Ph.D. on Sep 8th 2009
What Works for Bipolar Kids

Mani Pavuluri MD PhD is an Associate Professor of Child Psychiatry and Founding Director of the Pediatric Mood Disorders Clinic and Pediatric Bipolar Research Program at the Institute for Juvenile Research at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  Dr. Pavuluri is also on the Professional Advisory Council of the Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation (CABF). 

The book's intended audience is parents of children who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  The book is applicable to parents whose child has been newly diagnosed, or parents whose children may already be diagnosed, but are seeking additional information on the disorder and current treatments. 

The book is divided into three parts.  Part I, "The Facts and Fundamentals: Knowing the Playground" has three chapters.  The chapters discuss the validity of the pediatric bipolar diagnosis, symptoms of the disorder, and finding treatment.

Part II, "Treatment that can help your child and your family: Finding the solutions", consists of four chapters.  These chapters include medication treatment for pediatric bipolar disorder, a therapeutic treatment created by the author, and information on positive parenting skills.

Part III, "Pulling it all together into strategies for specific situations: Wisdom that gets you centered", contains chapters on finding appropriate school settings and programs, partnering with the child's teacher, and building social skills.

The book also has an appendix.  The appendix includes a parent and teacher version of the Child Mania Rating Scale (CMRS-P and CMRS-T), a medication history tracking form, the Pediatric Side Effects Checklist (P-SEC), a list of medications used for treating pediatric bipolar disorder, and a "Daily Mood Calendar".   The book also has a list of recommended books and websites. 

In chapter three, "Finding the right doctor and treatment team", the author has a list of "Best choices for your child's primary doctor".  The list is in order of preference, with the author listing "Child psychiatrist and expert in bipolar disorder" at the top of the list, and "psychologists and social workers".  The author notes that psychologists and social workers "need prescribing clinicians to be the partners in caring for the bipolar kids".  In this chapter, the author discusses issues related to health insurance and reimbursement for physician and clinician visits related to a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.  The author also includes a list of questions for parents to ask when choosing a doctor.  The list is thorough, and covers questions related to possible crises, types of treatment available, length of treatment, and recommended frequency of visits.

In chapter seven, "Parenting with poise: The secret ingredient for success", the author provides suggestions and techniques for effectively parenting a child with bipolar disorder.  The author discusses "diverting attention", whereby the parent distracts a relentless child through switching to another topic.  The author writes, "...your goal is not to prove to your child that you are right – your goal is managing your child!" (p. 144).  The author also has an example of a dialogue where a parent discusses bipolar disorder with their child.  The author makes an excellent point that the parent should ask "what" questions instead of "why" questions when talking to the child about his or her behavior.  The chapter details how the parent can advocate for their child in regards to healthcare and in school, and provides information on the importance of parent self-care. 

In chapter eleven, "Building social skills for positive friendships", the author provides realistic and positive goals for improved social skills.  The author makes a helpful recommendation that the parent create opportunities for the child to practice social skills, and use positive feedback to help reinforce appropriate social skills.  The chapter not only discusses the building of the child's social skills, but also emphasizes the importance of the parent's social involvement with the adults in his or her child's life, including the parents of other children.

The author emphasizes the effectiveness of medication combined with therapy in treating the disorder.  The book also discusses the author's therapeutic intervention for pediatric bipolar disorder, RAINBOW.  Although the title of the therapy is given in all caps, it appears to not be an acronym.  Rather, the author states that the intervention was given this name because it symbolizes "the happiness and calm that often comes after the storm" (p. 115).  RAINBOW uses "child- and family-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy" techniques (p. 115).  CBT techniques used in RAINBOW include awareness and elimination of negative thinking, and focusing on the "now".   The author makes an excellent point that the parent should not withdraw privileges and dole out consequences according to a standard behavior management model due to its potential to actually increase anger and irritability.  The author emphasizes that having the parent remain calm can greatly deescalate a child's behavior.  

The book contains a wealth of resources, and sheds light on appropriate parenting skills, effective relationships with the child's school, types of clinicians, available medications, and much more   What works for bipolar kids is a very helpful resource for parents, and is also a good addition to the mental health clinician's list of recommended books on the topic. 


© 2009 Stephanie Sarkis


Dr. Stephanie Sarkis is the author of three books:  "10 Simple Solutions to Adult ADD: How to Overcome Chronic Distraction & Accomplish Your Goals"; "Making the Grade with ADD:  A Student's Guide to Succeeding in College with Attention Deficit Disorder", and "ADD and Your Money: A Guide to Personal Finance for Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder".  Dr. Sarkis is a National Certified Counselor (NCC) and Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) based in Boca Raton, Florida.  She is also an adjunct assistant professor in Counselor Education at Florida Atlantic University.  She is internationally recognized for her work in treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD/ADD), Autism, Aspergers, and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).  Dr. Sarkis has won national awards for her research on ADHD and brain function.  Dr. Sarkis has been published in the Journal of Attention Disorders and she has been featured on CNN's "Health Minute," Fox News, ABC News, Sirius Satellite Radio, First Business Television, and numerous other networks and stations. Dr. Sarkis can be reached at or


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