Mentoring for Youth with Disabilities
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October 2018

This review examined research on mentoring for youth (ages 25 and younger) who have a disability, including physical, cognitive, learning, and developmental disabilities, and excluding psychiatric disabilities which have been discussed elsewhere.1 It addressed four questions:


  1. What is the documented effectiveness of mentoring for youth with disabilities?

  2. What factors condition or shape the effectiveness of mentoring for youth with disabilities?

  3. What are the intervening processes that are most important for linking mentoring to outcomes for youth with disabilities?

  4. To what extent have efforts that provide mentoring to youth with disabilities reached and engaged targeted youth, been implemented with high quality, and been adopted and sustained by host organizations and settings?

The review found a total of 40 studies addressing these questions. Benefits of mentoring program participation for youth with disabilities include improved employment and career-related decisions, transitions to adulthood (as well as college and work), postsecondary education goals, and independent living skills.

Although the research in this area is still relatively new, it suggests the following takeaways:

  • Potential benefits of mentoring programs for youth with disabilities include several in the areas of academic and career development, employment, psychosocial health and quality of life, transition, and life skills.
  • Although various types of mentoring models were used in these studies, it is unclear which formats work best for youth with disabilities.
  • Results suggest several potential processes occur between mentoring provision and ultimate outcomes (i.e., mediators), such as self-determination, and some factors could influence, or moderate, the effects of mentoring for youth with disabilities, including gender and ethnicity.

The review concludes with insights for practitioners that highlight a number of factors to consider when developing and implementing mentoring programs for youth with disabilities. This commentary suggests that programs looking to serve youth with disabilities consider accessibility factors that would better enable mentees to participate in activities offered, which may include not only physical access to facilities but also access to program materials in various formats. Furthermore, programs are advised to consider expanding the age ranges of youth they serve in order to meet the needs of youth with disabilities, who often need support during their transitions into adulthood (e.g., transition to independent living).

Click here to read the full review.

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