Mentorship and Self-Determination Skills
Mentorship relationships provide an ideal context for the development of self-determination skills. Mentors can help support students as they:
- Deepen their self-knowledge
- Learn to express preferences and make decisions about their lives
- Practice setting short and long-term goals
- Try out strategies to solve problems
- Advocate for themselves
The Bridge School Self-Determination Program combines the benefits of mentoring with our self-determination lessons and activities. Students are paired with mentors of their choice. They select either a peer mentor or a familiar adult, such as an Instructional Assistant, relative, or family friend. Students are also paired with adult mentors who have complex communication needs similar to their own and who rely on AAC and assistive technologies. Mentors and their mentees participate in weekly self-determination lessons and activities. They collaborate to set up routines as a group to promote a community of equality and respect, such as calling each other by first names and taking turns leading activities. They create a community of learners where everyone is committed to becoming more self-determined, including the mentors, teachers and other professionals who are members of the group.
How Does it Work?
Meeting in person is a great way to develop and support mentor-mentee relationships. In The Bridge School Self-Determination Program, mentors and mentees meet at least once a week during the school year to participate in self-determination lessons. Our mentors and mentees report that they enjoy seeing each other on a regular basis.
Mentors who use AAC can prepare for an in-person meeting with their mentee by knowing ahead of time what the self-determination activity will be. Some mentors prepare by programming messages into their AAC system before they meet their mentee in person.
When meeting face-to-face is a challenge, impractical, or just plain impossible, we turn to other ways to stay connected. Our mentors and mentees meet 1-3 times a week for self-determination sessions using Skype video chatting. Skype is a tool that allows users to make computer-to-computer calls with audio and video. Video chatting allows students to communicate in real-time with their mentor.
Mentors and mentees also connect via electronic mail often. As their relationships grow and change with time, our mentors and mentees find all sorts of different ways to interact, including:
- Skype - Video chatting and/or instant messaging in real time
- Electronic mail - Composing and sending email messages at any time of day
- Facebook - Posting comments, tagging pictures and sending messages to each other (for students 14 and older, with parental permission)
- Instant Messaging (IM) - Via Gmail or other IM site
- Text Messages (SMS) - Sending text messages through email account or via cell phone
- Listserve - Creating a group email address to send one email to multiple addresses at once
- Blogging - Writing an online, chronological written document of thoughts, ideas, reflections read by others