Path to Mentorship
Mentoring is one promising mechanism that could help youth with disabilities by enhancing youth’s inclusion in society. Mentors can serve as role models and share experiences while helping to support youth in their academic, career, and psychosocial development, and in their transition to adulthood.
If you want to successfully mentor a person with disabilities, the first step is to understand the disability that the person is living with.
When you agree to accept a TROT student as a mentee, meet with the instructor and/or clinical director to find out what your mentee lives with.
Learn About your Mentee
1. Inform yourself about that mentee’s disability.
2. Learn about compensatory strategies.
a. Ask the instructor or clinical director
b. Do online searches
c. Ask professors with whom you have classes
3. Inform yourself about the mentee’s life
a. Ask the clinical director for psycho/social background
b. Ask the instructor for information regarding what the student is learning at each step
4. Develop a mindset of TEACHING, not DOING FOR
a. Mentees are here to learn to develop life skills
b. Instead of brushing the horse, help the mentee brush the horse
c. Learn how to use “hand over” techniques to teach i. You actually put your hand over the mentee’s hand and guide it while explaining
d. Learn how to use different ways of explaining things i. Experiment with different ways of phrasing instructions
e. Learn about “pre-event coaching” i. Tell the mentee what you are going to do in a social script BEFORE doing it
f. Make a commitment to meet your client at the car and escort them to the barn if possible
g. Make a commitment to see your client back to the car if possible
h. Make a commitment to go over the session with the instructor/clinical director before and after the session
5. As the instructor/clinical director What Support He or She Wants from You The beginning of any mentoring relationship involves identifying and agreeing upon the goals and outcomes to be attained. While you may have your own ideas about what sort of help or support you can provide, ask what his or her expectations are.
6. Treat Your Mentee the Same As You Would Any Student. A student who has a disability is just like other qualified students who do not have disabilities. Your mentee has many skills and talents to contribute. He or she has a desire to learn and grow through the experience and wants to succeed and advance in the world. Treat your mentee just like anyone else you may mentor. Have high expectations for what mentees have to offer and an appreciation for individuality.
7. Your mentee knows himself or herself better than anyone else, so start getting to know your mentee by asking questions you might ask any student intern such as: “What are your goals? What are your strengths? What skills or knowledge do you want to learn or improve? What do you hope to gain through this experience?” Mentees may or may not choose to directly talk about their disability and this should be respected. However, if disclosure may be important to the success of the internship, you could approach this subject by asking for permission to discuss the disability and explain the advantages of doing so. If your mentee prefers not to engage in such discussion, do not insist.
8. Establish Trust through Active Listening The success of any mentoring relationship hinges on establishing trust. Being a good listener is an important strategy for building trust with your mentee. The more you ask questions and actively listen to what your mentee shares about him or herself and the internship experience, the more you will learn about who your mentee is and what support he or she wants from you as a mentor. While you bring a lot of professional and personal experience to the relationship, avoid the temptation to focusing on yourself. Share your experience and knowledge as it relates to the mentee’s interests and goals and respond to specific questions posed about career and professional achievements. Make mutual sharing and learning an objective of every interaction while keeping the focus on what the mentee wants to discuss.
9. Be careful not to tell your mentee what to do but rather help them think through options so they may come to an appropriate conclusion.