The Bridge School

Self-Determination Program

The Roles of the Mentor & Mentee

Mentors learn about their role

Mentors meet with the Self-Determination Program staff to talk about the general overview of the program. Mentors are given a questionnaire to complete in order to begin thinking about the roles/responsibilities and qualities of a mentor supporting a student who uses AAC. Mentors are given the opportunity to share what they believe a mentee can learn from them.

Mentors Prepare by:

  • Completing the Self-Determination/Mentorship Questionnaire [PDF, 44KB]
  • Reviewing information about the mentees (e.g., age, tools/technologies, general likes/dislikes, etc.)
  • Becoming familiar with the structure of the Self-Determination Program sessions and preparation work they would need to do in advance
  • Teaming together (e.g., mentors set up a regular time to meet, brainstorm activities/lessons via email/Cisco WebEx/Skype meetings, get feedback from Self-Determination Program staff to support their growth and develop as mentors and to refine activities/lessons, etc.)

What is a mentor?

Mentoring is a relationship between two people with the goal of personal development. The mentor is someone who shares knowledge, experiences and advice with a less experienced person. You are the person who has “been there” and “done that.” The person you mentor is called the “mentee.”

Understanding your role as a mentor

Most of us have had a supervisor, teacher, boss, friend, speech-language pathologist and/or relative who made a positive difference in our lives, and who acted as a role model, cheerleader, advocate, and/or friend.  As a mentor, you may wear these different hats. As you work with your mentees, not only will you be working with them as they get to know themselves, but you will also be learning more about yourself, too. Together you will build trust, respect and relationship.

Mentors should have and/or build effective communication skills for working with young students with disabilities.

Adult mentors who use AAC can share with students:

  • Effective communication skills and strategies
  • Valuable insights/unique perspectives
  • Specific ways to overcome barriers to communication and participation
  • Personal experiences using AAC
  • Relevant disability-related information
  • Information on how to find and access important resources
  • Active listening – focusing on what the partner is saying
  • Being respectful
  • Asking questions
  • Being patient
  • Talking in age appropriate language (don’t use big words, explain things if necessary, etc.)
  • Using partner-assisted scanning

Good Mentors

  • Give clear feedback to their mentees
  • Model strategies for communication and positive interactions
  • Offer encouragement and praise
  • Lead role-play activities to practice and prepare to use AAC tools in real-life situations
  • Brainstorm solutions to problems that arise
  • Help mentees to plan ahead to avoid potential barriers
  • Celebrate success
  • Share about themselves
  • Understand what they can and cannot change about the mentee
  • Become trusted advisors
  • Offer suggestions
  • Help improve skills
  • Prepare in advance for the next meeting/visit
  • Boost confidence/provide positive feedback
  • Keep things confidential
  • Observe – watch for cues, body language, etc.
  • Facilitate when they think mentee has something to offer/comment on
  • Listen before speaking
  • Check for understanding – if you need clarification or don’t understand, ask the mentee to clarify


  • Communicate using all of their tools and communication strategies
  • Learn about the mentor
  • Show interest, ask/answer questions and comment
  • Are courteous and respectful in interactions
  • Share information about themselves -  goals, dreams, personal information about likes and dislikes, etc.
  • Set the conversation topic and stay focused
  • Learn how to be a more active participant
  • Learn how to direct activities and take greater control
  • Learn how to plan and take action