The Bridge School

Self-Determination Program

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
  • How Does it Work?

The Bridge School Self-Determination Program combines the benefits of mentoring with our self-determination lessons and activities. Mentees can meet one-on-one with their mentor(s) or within group activities in the classroom or out in the community. As a group, they collaborate to set up routines 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.

Meeting in person is a great way to develop and support mentor-mentee relationships. 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. Our mentors and mentees report that they enjoy seeing each other on a regular basis.

When meeting face-to-face is a challenge, impractical, or just plain impossible, mentees and their mentors connect in alternative ways, such as video conferencing, social media, etc. A preferred tool is video conferencing, which allows users to make computer-to-computer calls with audio and video. This way of chatting allows students to communicate in real-time with their mentors.

As their relationships grow and change with time, our mentors and mentees find different ways to interact, implement activities and meet using:

  1. Video chatting and/or instant messaging in real time
  2. Electronic mail – Composing and sending email messages at any time of day
  3. Social Media (e.g., Facebook) – Posting comments, tagging pictures and sending messages to each other (for students 14 and older, with parental permission)
  4. Instant Messaging (IM) – Via Gmail or other IM site
  5. Text Messages (SMS) – Sending text messages through email account or via cell phone
  6. Listserve – Creating a group email address to send one email to multiple addresses at once
  7. Blogging – Writing an online, chronological written document of thoughts, ideas, reflections read by others