Today is Disability Mentoring Day, a nationwide effort coordinated by the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) to promote career development for students and job-seekers with disabilities through hands-on career exploration and ongoing mentoring relationships. Mentors may offer support, counseling, reinforcement, and constructive examples for a young person to reach their work and life goals. Mentorship can take several forms, such as a young person exploring a career field with an adult with many years of experience in that field, a peer mentoring relationship between a young person or a newly-injured person and someone with similar lived experience, or an emerging scholar or researcher working with an academic or clinical advisor in a university program.
The NIDILRR grantee community has examined mentoring as a strategy in all of these areas, from young people transitioning from school to work to those advancing their careers in research:
The Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) on Pathways to Positive Futures* is conducting a study called Project Futures which pairs college freshmen with lived experience in both foster care and mental health challenges with “near peer” mentors with similar lived experience who were trained to help them identify and work toward academic and social goals. The mentors are also supported by faculty and staff volunteers called Campus Champions. Learn more about how this program was developed and recommendations for supporting the student-coach-Champion relationship in ways that help students get the most out of program mentoring and connections across campus (PDF).
The RRTC on Employment Outcomes for Individuals who are Blind or Visually Impaired (2010-2015) conducted a trial of an employment mentoring program for college students who are blind. They found that participants in the mentoring program benefitted from working with mentors who were also blind and had experience navigating employment in their career field. The students who participated were more efficient in their job search activities. The project resulted in an employment mentoring manual, resources for job seekers, and an online short course on employment mentoring. See also For College Graduates who are Legally Blind, Finding a Job Can Be Tough But Mentoring Can Help and Career Mentors Can Help College Students Who Are Legally Blind Build Confidence to Find Jobs from our Research In Focus series to learn more about these findings.
The Langston University RRTC on Research and Capacity Building for Minority Entities used a peer-to-peer mentorship model to build skills and experience among emerging scholars and researchers from diverse ethnic and racial groups. Participating fellows were paired with mentors to learn research skills, enhance their confidence in their abilities with state-of-the-science knowledge about measurement and methodology, and direct hands-on experience in conducting research and developed and submitting publications and grant proposals. Learn more about this program in LU RRTC’s research brief.
Other examples of mentoring from NIDILRR-funded projects include…
- A Spinal Cord Injury Peer Mentoring Program pairing newly injured individuals with volunteers who can answer their questions and “show them the ropes” of living with SCI (PDF).
- A Burn Injury Peer Support Program connecting survivors and their families with others who have experience burn injury
- Parenting Know-How tips and advice on parenting with a disability from parents who’ve been there.
In addition to these individual projects, NIDILRR funds the Advanced Rehabilitation Research Training (ARRT) grants. Announced in 1986, the ARRTs prepare individuals with advanced clinical training for research careers in fields related to rehabilitation. Each five-year center has a focus, such as health policy or neuromuscular disorders. Trainees, including those with disabilities, receive support and instruction from experienced researchers in the field, who direct their efforts to develop and conduct research projects, prepare and submit publications and grant applications, participate in scientific conferences, and continue to develop their skills and abilities toward their career goals including post-doctoral degrees. Since the program’s launch, ARRT trainees and their mentors have produced more than 1,000 publications which we have indexed in REHABDATA. Explore current and completed ARRTs in the NIDILRR Program Database.
Want to dig deeper? Explore some of the research on mentoring available from the NARIC collection:
- NIDILRR-funded research on mentoring
- NIDILRR-funded research on peer support
- US and International research on mentoring
- US and International research on “peer support”
- Explore some of the recent publications from the ARRTs (last 5 years)
*This project is also supported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).