Answered Questions for January 2022: Peer Mentors and People with Disabilities

Answered Questions is a monthly resource for the Spanish language Disability Community that fills an information need. This month’s question is “I just heard about peer mentoring in the disability community. What is it and what resources and research are available so that I can learn more and possibly become a peer mentor?” This edition of Answered Questions includes items that define the term peer mentors; discuss a study on training young adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities to deliver a peer mentoring intervention; peer mentors and people with psychiatric disabilities; peer mentors, integrated healthcare, and self-directed recovery; inclusive communities and peer mentoring; and more. More about Answered Questions.

What is Peer Mentoring?

January marks National Mentoring Month (in English) and January 23rd marks Ed Roberts Day (in English). Both help raise awareness about the impact of peer mentoring for people with disabilities across the country. Peer mentors are people with and without disabilities who provide counseling and advice to others who have similar life experience. Peers can be of the same age group, backgrounds, cultural or ethnic group, or disability type. This peer-based model provides different viewpoints on handling life’s daily challenges and is based on sharing understanding and shared experience. Consumers of peer mentoring services are assigned a peer mentor who works one-on-one with them to establish goals to achieve independence and develop strategies to reach those goals. For example, a second- or third-year college student with a mental health disability could be a peer mentor for a new college student with a similar disability. Peer mentors assist with a variety of issues faced by people with disabilities, including housing, employment, and returning to the community.

NIDILRR-Funded Projects:

The study, Training Young Adults with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities and Co-Occurring Mental Health Conditions to Deliver a Peer Mentoring Interventions (in English), expands, refines, and adapts a promising peer mentoring intervention, where a young adult with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD) and co-occurring mental health conditions (MH) serves as a peer mentor and evaluates its preliminary efficacy for supporting delivery of high-fidelity peer mentoring. The development of an effective peer mentoring protocol is critical to move forward not only this peer mentoring intervention but could serve as a foundation for other peer-delivered interventions for young adults with IDD.

The Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) on Integrated Health Care and Self-Directory Recovery (in English) creates, modifies, and improves self-directed models of medical care and mental health services that promote recovery, health, and employment for people with psychiatric disabilities. This RRTC enhances the health and wellbeing of people with psychiatric disabilities and co-occurring medical conditions, stimulates the development of self-directed recovery models that are peer-led, and improves employment outcomes. This Center helps peer mentors and other service providers through tools that help promote physical health and wellness (in English) and self-directed recovery (in English).

From the NARIC Collection:

The article, Peer mentoring reduces unplanned readmissions and improves self-efficacy following inpatient rehabilitation for individuals with spinal cord injury (in English), discussed a study that evaluated the effects of peer interventions on self-efficacy, unplanned hospital readmissions, and quality of life for patients with spinal cord injury (SCI) undergoing inpatient rehabilitation. The findings suggest that one-to-one peer mentoring improves self-efficacy and reduces unplanned hospital readmissions following inpatient rehabilitation for SCI.

The article, Building inclusive communities through peer mentoring: A tool for change (in English), discusses a study that explored the personal and professional experiences of peer mentors who volunteer to support students with an intellectual disability in an inclusive postsecondary program. The results of the study demonstrated an impact of the peer mentoring experience which extended beyond the personal and professional benefits gained by peer mentors, with implications for altering societal views of people with disabilities.

Research In Focus:

Past studies have found that wellness programs may be particularly effective when run by peers with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) who have similar life experiences to the program participants. The article, Peer to Peer: Training Peer Health Coaches to Lead a Health Messages Program for Their Peers with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, discusses a NIDILRR-funded study from researchers at the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Developmental Disabilities and Health (in English) who tested a wellness program run by peer health coaches with IDD in collaboration with staff members from community-based organizations. The researchers found that the program led to several positive results for the participants with IDD and may provide benefits to peer providers, such as increased health knowledge and leadership skills. This article is also available in English.

Past research has found that children of Latin American descent, or “Latinx” children, are less likely to be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) than non-Latinx children. The article, Parents Taking Action: A New Program to Empower Latinx Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, discusses a study where researchers from the Parents Taking Action (PTA): A Parent Training Intervention for Latino Immigrant Families (in English), tested an innovative program, designed to educate Latinx parents about ASD and strategies for supporting their children, that is delivered individually to families in their homes by fellow Latinx mothers of children with ASD, who provide peer support and information in a culturally relevant way. The researchers found that the mothers in the intervention group reported an increase in their confidence and empowerment over the course of the study, but there were no changes for the mothers in the control group. This article is also available in English.


The article, How a mentor can help kids who learn and think differently, discusses the benefits of a child with learning, intellectual, or cognitive disabilities having a peer mentor, describes the different types of mentors, and provides tips on how parents may find a peer mentor for their child. The article also discusses the benefits of a peer counselor: building their self-esteem, improving their performance in school, decreasing a child’s frustration with school assignments, and more.


The article, UPNA students act as mentors for colleagues with intellectual disabilities who are being trained for employment, discusses a program at the Public University of Navarra (UPNA) where 20 undergraduate students mentors 15 youth (18 to 30 years old) with intellectual disabilities who are in a university training program for employment at the University. Those who participate in this training program receive personalized support from peer mentors to develop personal, social, and career skills. In addition, their inclusion in the university environment and their relationship with peer mentors contribute to the development of skills that may be applied in their jobs and generate social and affective relationships that also favor the social inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities in the community.


  • A peer provider, which may be a peer mentor, is someone who draws on their own lived experience of disability, along with training and professional support, to provide services like counseling and coaching to people with the same type of disability. NARIC’s FAQ, Peer Providers – How Your Experience Makes You Right for the Job, discusses how the experiences of people with disabilities makes them the best person to be a peer mentor or peer provider. The FAQ provides information on NIDILRR-funded projects related to peer mentors/providers and resources to learn more about peer providers. This FAQ is also available in English.
  • The National Disability Mentoring Coalition (NDMC) (in English) works to raise awareness about the importance and impact of mentoring in the lives of people with disabilities and to increase the number and quality of disability mentoring programs around the US. The NDMC network (in English) is comprised of over 300 people from more than 180 organizations that are committed to expanding mentoring opportunities for people with disabilities. Finally, the NDMC provides training, technical assistance, and a referral network to grow the number of mentors and strengthen the impact of mentoring experiences.

Further Research:




About Answered Questions Each month, we look through the searches on our blog and through the information requests made by our patrons who speak Spanish and pick a topic that fills the largest need. Each resource mentioned above is associated with this month’s information need. We search the various Spanish language news sources and feeds throughout the month to bring you these articles. Except for the NIDILRR Projects, From the NARIC Collection, and Further Investigation, all the linked articles and resources are in Spanish – any that are in English will be clearly marked.

About mpgarcia

I'm the Bilingual Information/Media Specialist at NARIC.
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