Creating an E-Mentoring Community: How DO-IT does it, and how you can do it, too

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Creating an E-Mentoring Community: How DO-IT does it, and how you can do it too is available in HTML and PDF versions. For the HTML version, follow the table of contents below. For the PDF version, go to Creating an E-Mentoring Community - PDFs

© 2006 University of Washington

This material is based upon work supported by The Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation and the National Science Foundation (cooperative agreement #HRD-0227995). Any opinions, findings, and conclusion or recommendations expressed in this material do not necessarily represent the policy of the funding sources, and you should not assume their endorsement.

Dedication

This book is dedicated to college-bound teens who are smart enough to know they can learn from the experiences of others.

It is also dedicated to mentors who find joy in knowing they've made a difference in a young person's life. These caring adults may mentor a child as part of their relationship as:

  • a parent who is continually learning how best to guide his or her child toward a happy, self-determined life
  • a teacher who is learning strategies to apply in the special education or inclusive classroom
  • a counselor or group leader who is open to new ideas for helping young people become successful adults

The book is written for those who wish to develop an online community that facilitates mentoring, peer support, and other activities to promote academic and career success, social competence, self-determination, and leadership skills for teens with a wide range of abilities and disabilities. Anyone who enjoys hearing about the goals, challenges, efforts, experiences, and insights of young people facing life's challenges will also enjoy reading this book.

Acknowledgments

Author, Contributors, Funders


Courage is not the absence of fear;
it is the making of action in spite of fear.

— M. Scott Peck —


Color photo portrait of DO-IT director Sheryl Burgstahler
 

The Author

Dr. Sheryl Burgstahler is the founder and director of DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) at the University of Washington. DO-IT promotes the success of people with disabilities in postsecondary academic programs and careers. It sponsors projects that increase the use of assistive technology and stimulate the development of accessible facilities, computer labs, electronic resources in libraries, web pages, educational multimedia, and Internet-based distance learning programs.

Dr. Burgstahler is the director of the Northwest Center on Access to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (AccessSTEM), funded by the National Science Foundation (cooperative agreement #HRD-0227995) to increase the participation of people with disabilities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers. She codirects the National Center on Accessible Information Technology in Education (AccessIT), funded by the National Institute on Rehabilitation Research of the U.S. Department of Education (grant #H133D010306) to coordinate a nationwide effort to promote the use of accessible information technology. She also codirects The Alliance for Access to Computing Careers (AccessComputing), funded by the National Science Foundation (grant #CNS-0540615) to increase the participation of people with disabilities in computing fields.

Dr. Burgstahler has published dozens of articles and delivered presentations at national and international conferences that focus on the full inclusion of individuals with disabilities in postsecondary education, distance learning, work-based learning, and electronic communities. She is the author or coauthor of six books on using the Internet with precollege students. Dr. Burgstahler has extensive experience teaching at the precollege, community college, and university levels. She is the director of Accessible Technology Services within Computing & Communications and Affiliate Associate Professor in the College of Education at the University of Washington. More about Dr. Burgstahler can be found on her website at staff.washington.edu/sherylb.

The Contributors

Thanks to the more than one hundred successful young people and adults with disabilities for sharing insights and advice that guided the development of this book. Special thanks to Randy Hammer, Jessie Shulman, Larry Scadden, and Todd Stabelfeldt for sharing their personal stories and to Carole Isakson for conducting interviews and assisting with editing. In addition, for contributing to the content and editing of the book, thanks go to Scott Bellman, Beverly Biderman, Tresa Bos, Dan Comden, Lyla Crawford, Deb Cronheim, Tanis Doe, Nan Hawthorne, Doug Hayman, Natalie Hilzen, Phyllis Levine, Hope Long, Sara Lopez, Kathryn Pope Olson, Lynda Price, Mary Proudfoot, Michael Richardson, Nancy Rickerson, Amy Schieffer, Lisa Stewart, Mark Uslan, Aimee Verrall, Teresa Welley, and Sue Wozniak.

Some of the content of this book was adapted from the comprehensive collection of DO-IT publications at www.washington.edu/doit. Readers will find there some of the same content adapted for different audiences, as well as other publications, videos, and resources that promote the success of people with disabilities and the use of technology as an empowering tool. The most relevant references can be found in Chapter Fourteen of this book.

The Funding Sources

Partial funding for the creation of this book was provided by the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, a nonprofit foundation jointly funded by Mitsubishi Electric Corporation of Japan and its American affiliates. The Foundation's mission is to contribute to a better world for us all by helping young people with disabilities, through technology, maximize their potential and participation in society. Additional funding was provided by the National Science Foundation (cooperative agreement #HRD-0227995). Any questions, findings, or conclusions expressed in these materials are those of the author and other contributors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the funding agencies.

Foreword


We must take control of our own destiny, but we must avoid alienating
those who may be gatekeepers to future success.

— Dr. Lawrence Scadden —


Photo of Six adults sit around a table and raise their glasses for a celebration toast.

Celebrating when DO-IT won the National Information Infrastructure Award in 1995 are (from left to right) Virginia Stern, Director of Project on Science, Technology, and Disability, the American Association for the Advancement of Science; Dr. Sheryl Burgstahler, Founder and Director of DO-IT, University of Washington (UW); Dr. Lawrence Scadden, NSF Program Officer; Sonia Scadden, Dr. Scadden's wife; Dr. Ray Bowen, Dean of the UW College of Engineering and Computer Science; and Dr. David Burgstahler, UW Accounting Professor.

When and how did I learn to take charge of my own life? People who know me may think that I have always had self-determination: I have had a successful career moving from place to place, job to job, going where there were exciting new opportunities. That was not always the case!

As a teenager, my first love was science and mathematics. I wanted to become a scientist or engineer, but teachers, counselors, and family urged me to reconsider, saying, "There is no place for a blind person in these fields." I believed them. Not until my early twenties did I take charge of my own life and make a plunge into science. I was in graduate school working on an advanced degree in government studies and teaching part-time in a community college when I began taking courses at a nearby college looking for an area of science in which I could make a mark. Human perception was the answer. Most of the scientific literature on human perception dealt with vision, leaving important research on touch and hearing for others, like me. I changed my field, and my life changed forever.

When reading this exciting new volume, Creating an E-Mentoring Community, I recognized that many of the young people who contributed to the book achieved self-determination as teens. Why did they succeed at that age when I did not? Many good reasons explain the difference. In the 1950s when I was a teenager, those of us with disabilities had few role models to look to for guidance, and we had few opportunities to learn and demonstrate our capabilities and interests. Today many opportunities exist, and information regarding successful people with disabilities can be disseminated far more easily than in the past. The young people who contributed to this volume all were involved in exemplary programs that promoted self-esteem and fostered self-determination. Reading about their experiences and examining their advice, I am aware of the similarities and the differences between opportunities of today and those of my era. For instance, the factors that promote success and achieving self-determination are quite similar.

Todd, in an E-Community Activity in Chapter Four, says that one's attitude and personality are key factors for success. I agree even though these personal traits can be pretty rough around the edges sometimes; persistence may be only a shade away from being stubborn or obstinate. A balanced approach in human relations is important, although often difficult to manage. We must take control of our own destiny, but we must avoid alienating those who may be gatekeepers to future success.

Todd and Randy commend their parents for expressing high expectations for them and their lives early on. I do too, but, as this book points out, many people with disabilities achieve self-determination without parental support. It is possible, but it is much easier when one's own attitude regarding future success is learned early from one's family.

Jessie says that successful people need to be resourceful and adaptable. I continue to find that to be good advice every time I tackle a new challenge. People with disabilities are often pioneers, moving into new arenas where few can give advice. We must turn to our own strengths to solve problems of access and to perform tasks independently when necessary.

Randy says that it is important to be resilient. Oh yes! Mistakes, failures, and negative attitudes may seem to be barriers to forward motion, but we cannot let these deter our progress. Resilience is an important trait we need to have working for us all the time.

The primary difference for today's young people with disabilities from that known by those of us from an earlier generation relates to the opportunities and the information available today that promote personal growth. Most of the contributors to this book are participants in DO-IT programs or projects funded by the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation and the National Science Foundation. Both of these programs are dedicated to giving young people with disabilities the opportunity to learn and to develop skills that will help them find their own accommodations and to be active and productive members of our communities. They learned early in their lives that their abilities are far more important than their disabilities. They serve as role models for each other, but they learn about others with disabilities who have gone before and who are successful in a myriad of careers and avocations. These are experiences and data that combine to produce knowledge, and knowledge is power.

The ideal would be to allow all young people with disabilities to have these opportunities, but that is not the reality. The next best thing is to provide more and more of these young people with the experiences vicariously through sharing the words of many who have had opportunities to participate in these exemplary programs. This volume—combined with the intervention of parents, teachers, and mentors—can provide these vicarious experiences for thousands of other young people with disabilities. Young people are heard sharing their insights and advice on achieving success. All of them have disabilities and have conquered them.

The contributions from these individuals are quite poignant, but the book contains other valuable guides for parents, teachers, mentors, and people with disabilities themselves. The author, Sheryl Burgstahler, has applied her wealth of knowledge and experience gained through years of working with people with disabilities to assembling a wealth of activities that will help all readers to interact with the information presented by the contributors. Readers, then, can take new skills and ideas to help them as they work with other young people who have disabilities.

The book's contributors, along with the author, strongly promote the concept that people with disabilities and their parents, teachers, and mentors all must profess and maintain high expectations for the person with a disability. It was gratifying to read this over and over in the book because it echoes something I have used to conclude dozens of public presentations over the last twenty years. I have numerous opportunities to address gatherings of people with disabilities and others who have contact with them. Often I talk about my own life experiences, urging others to help people with disabilities attain the same success. My concluding remarks frequently follow this theme. Speaking first to people with disabilities, I say, "Come fly with me; let your expectations soar!" Then to their parents, teachers, and counselors I say, "Come fly with them; let your expectations for them soar! Give them the opportunities and the tools to let them achieve their goals." Finally, to everyone else I say, "Come fly with us! Let our expectations for all people with disabilities soar!" This book is a tool that can raise expectations for all readers.

Lawrence A. Scadden, Ph.D.
Retired Program Officer, National Science Foundation (NSF)

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Life is a succession of lessons, which must be lived to be understood.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson —


Dedication

Acknowledgements

Foreword

Table of Contents

Preface

PART I: Creating an Electronic Mentoring Community

Chapter One: An Introduction to E-mentoring and E-communities

Chapter Two: Steps to Creating an E-mentoring Community

Chapter Three: Orientation and Training for Mentors

Chapter Four: Introduction to Mentoring for Success and Self-Determination

PART II: Supporting Teens in an E-Mentoring Community

Chapter Five: Define Success for Yourself

Chapter Six: Set Personal, Academic, and Career Goals. Keep Your Expectations High

Chapter Seven: Understand Your Abilities and Disabilities; Play to Your Strengths

Chapter Eight: Develop Strategies to Reach Your Goals

Chapter Nine: Use Technology as an Empowering Tool

Chapter Ten: Work Hard; Persevere; Be flexible

Chapter Eleven: Develop a Support Network. Look to Family, Friends, and Teachers

PART III: Where to Go from Here 

Chapter Twelve: Share Your Story

Chapter Thirteen: Sample Documents

Chapter Fourteen: Resources and Bibliography

 

© 2007 University of Washington

Permission is granted to copy these materials for non-commercial purposes provided the source is acknowledged.

Creating an E-Mentoring Community

How DO-IT does it, and how you can do it, too

Introduction - 1759 KB

Includes

  • Dedication
  • Acknowledgements
  • Table of Contents
  • Foreword
  • Preface
  • Overview of this Book
  • History and Current Trends Regarding People with Disabilities
  • DO-IT
  • The Role of Technology in Creating this Book
  • What You'll Find in this Book
  • How to Use this Book
  • How to Download or Purchase this Book and Complementary Videos.

Chapter 1 - 1385 KB

Includes

  • PART I: CREATING AN ELECTRONIC MENTORING COMMUNITY
  • Chapter One: An introduction to e-mentoring and e-communities.
  • Peer, Near-Peer, and Mentor Support
  • Computer-Mediated Communication
  • E-Mentoring Communities
  • DO-IT's E-Mentoring Community
  • Joining an Existing Online Mentoring Program

Chapter 2 - 1125 KB

Includes

  • Chapter Two: Steps to creating an e-mentoring community.
  • Establish clear goals for the program.
  • Decide what technology to use.
  • Establish a discussion group structure.
  • Select an administrator for the e-mentoring community, and make other staff and volunteer assignments as needed.
  • Develop guidelines for protégés concerning appropriate and safe Internet communications.
  • Establish roles and develop guidelines, orientation, and training for mentors.
  • Standardize procedures for recruiting and screening mentor applicants.
  • Determine how to recruit protégés.
  • Provide guidance to parents.
  • Establish a system whereby new mentors and protégés are introduced to community members.
  • Provide ongoing supervision of and support to mentors.
  • Monitor and manage online discussions.
  • Share resources.
  • Employ strategies that promote personal development.
  • Publicly share the value and content of communications in the e-mentoring community and the contributions of the mentors.
  • Monitor the workings of the e-mentoring community as it evolves.
  • Adjust procedures and forms accordingly.
  • Have fun!

Chapter 3 - 551 KB

Includes

  • Chapter Three: Orientation and training for mentors.
  • Mentor Tip: Orientation
  • Mentor Tip: Discussion Lists/Forums
  • Mentor Tip: Mentoring Guidelines
  • Mentor Tip: Communication of Emotions
  • Mentor Tip: Positive Reinforcement
  • Mentor Tip: Listening Skills
  • Mentor Tip: Questions for Protégés
  • Mentor Tip: Disabilities
  • Mentor Tip: Guiding Teens
  • Mentor Tip: Conversation Starters
  • Mentor Tip: "Dos" when Mentoring Teens
  • Mentor Tip: "Don'ts" when Mentoring Teens

Chapter 4 - 755 KB

Includes

  • Chapter Four: Introduction to mentoring for success and self-determination.
  • E-Community Activity: Welcome to Online Mentoring
  • E-Community Activity: Guidelines for Protégés
  • E-Community Activity: Safety on the Internet
  • E-Community Activity: Jessie and Learning Strategies
  • E-Community Activity: Jessie and Disability Benefits
  • E-Community Activity: Randy and Proving Yourself
  • E-Community Activity: Randy and Taking on Challenges
  • E-Community Activity: Advice from Randy
  • E-Community Activity: Todd and an Awkward Moment
  • E-Community Activity: Todd, Family, and Friends
  • E-Community Activity: Jessie, Randy, Todd, and Success Strategies
  • E-Community Activity: Jessie, Randy, Todd, and Awkward Situations
  • Mentor Tip: Success
  • E-Community Activity: Emulating Characteristics of Successful People
  • E-Community Activity: Achieving Success
  • Mentor Tip: Self-Determination
  • E-Community Activity: Defining Self-Determination
  • E-Community Activity: Characteristics of Self-Determined People
  • E-Community Activity: Steps Toward Self-Determination
  • Mentor Tip: Commitment to Learning
  • Mentor Tip: Positive Values
  • Mentor Tip: Social Competencies
  • Mentor Tip: Positive Identity
  • Mentor Tip: Self-Development
  • Mentor Tip: Problem Solving
  • E-Community Activity: Advice from Teens
  • E-Community Activity: Success Stories on the Web
  • E-Community Activity: Affirming Success

Chapter 5 - 658 KB

Includes

  • PART II: SUPPORTING TEENS IN AN E-MENTORING COMMUNITY
  • Chapter Five: Define success for yourself.
  • Mentor Tip: Steps to Success
  • Mentor Tip: Definition of Success
  • E-Community Activity: Learning from Successful Experiences
  • E-Community Activity: Finding Your Goals for Success
  • E-Community Activity: Learning from Teens with Disabilities
  • E-Community Activity: Learning from Role Models
  • E-Community Activity: Discovering Academic Success Factors
  • E-Community Activity: Selecting Your Best Teacher
  • E-Community Activity: Defining Success
  • Mentor Tip: Keeping a Positive Attitude
  • E-Community Activity: Building a Positive Attitude
  • E-Community Activity: Finding Humor
  • E-Community Activity: Affirming Success

Chapter 6 - 723 KB

Includes

  • Chapter Six: Set personal, academic, and career goals. Keep your expectations high.
  • Mentor Tip: Goals
  • Mentor Tip: Goal Setting
  • E-Community Activity: Setting Goals
  • Mentor Tip: Promoting High Expectations
  • Mentor Tip: Getting Help with Setting Goals
  • E-Community Activity: Getting Help to Maintain High Expectations
  • E-Community Activity: Matching Academic Interests with Careers
  • Mentor Tip: People with Disabilities and STEM
  • E-Community Activity: Pursuing STEM
  • E-Community Activity: Considering College Options
  • E-Community Activity: Making Plans
  • E-Community Activity: Affirming Success

Chapter 7 - 784 KB

Includes

  • Chapter Seven: Understand your abilities and disabilities. Play to your strengths.
  • Mentor Tip: Disability Acceptance
  • E-Community Activity: Accepting Disability
  • Mentor Tip: Labels
  • E-Community Activity: Trying New Things
  • E-Community Activity: Identifying Your Likes and Dislikes
  • Mentor Tip: Incorrect Assumptions
  • E-Community Activity: Dealing with Incorrect Assumptions
  • E-Community Activity: Describing Your Disability
  • E-Community Activity: Dealing with Rude People
  • E-Community Activity: Thinking about Language
  • E-Community Activity: Responding to Labels
  • E-Community Activity: Building on Strengths
  • E-Community Activity: Redefining Limitations as Strengths
  • E-Community Activity: Exploring Learning Strengths and Challenges
  • E-Community Activity: Taking Inventory of Your Learning Style
  • E-Community Activity: Finding Careers That Use Your Skills
  • E-Community Activity: Matching Skills with Careers
  • E-Community Activity: Identifying Your Career Interests and Work Style
  • E-Community Activity: Healthy Self-Esteem
  • E-Community Activity: Valuing Yourself
  • E-Community Activity: Learning to Value Yourself
  • E-Community Activity: Affirming Self-Value
  • E-Community Activity: Affirming Success

Chapter 8 - 498 KB

Includes

  • Chapter Eight: Develop strategies to reach your goals.
  • Mentor Tip: Self-Advocacy
  • Mentor Tip: Goals
  • Mentor Tip: Short- and Long-Term Goals
  • E-Community Activity: Making Informed Decisions
  • Mentor Tip: Rights and Responsibilities
  • E-Community Activity: Knowing Your Rights and Responsibilities in College
  • E-Community Activity: Securing Accommodations in College
  • E-Community Activity: Developing Study Habits
  • E-Community Activity: Creating Win-Win Solutions
  • E-Community Activity: Changing Advocacy Roles
  • E-Community Activity: Self-Advocating
  • E-Community Activity: Self-Advocating with Teachers
  • E-Community Activity: Disclosing Your Disability in College
  • E-Community Activity: Disclosing Your Disability to an Employer
  • E-Community Activity: Advising a Friend about Disability Disclosure
  • E-Community Activity: Being Assertive
  • E-Community Activity: Securing Job Accommodations
  • E-Community Activity: Asking for Accommodations at Work
  • E-Community Activity: Standing Up for Convictions and Beliefs
  • E-Community Activity: Learning from Mistakes
  • E-Community Activity: Affirming Success

Chapter 9 - 653 KB

Includes

  • Chapter Nine: Use technology as an empowering tool.
  • E-Community Activity: Surveying Accessible Technology
  • Mentor Tip: Promoting Technology
  • Mentor Tip: Technology Access
  • Mentor Tip: Technology and Success in School
  • E-Community Activity: Becoming Digital-Age Literate
  • E-Community Activity: Using Technology with Young Children
  • E-Community Activity: Using Technology for Success in School
  • E-Community Activity: Using Technology to Complete Homework
  • E-Community Activity: Using Technology in Science and Engineering
  • E-Community Activity: Surfing the Web to Prepare for College
  • E-Community Activity: Using Technology in Your Career
  • E-Community Activity: Using Technology in Careers
  • E-Community Activity: Surfing the Web to Prepare for a Career
  • E-Community Activity: Using Technology to Enhance Your Social Life
  • E-Community Activity: Affirming Success with Technology

Chapter 10 - 489 KB

Includes

  • Chapter Ten: Work hard. Persevere. Be flexible.
  • Mentor Tip: Actions to Achieve Goals
  • E-Community Activity: Working Hard
  • E-Community Activity: Coping with Stress
  • E-Community Activity: Being Flexible
  • E-Community Activity: Taking Risks
  • E-Community Activity: Taking Action
  • E-Community Activity: Learning from Experiences
  • E-Community Activity: Learning from Work Experiences
  • E-Community Activity: Understanding the Value of Work Experiences
  • E-Community Activity: Being Resilient
  • E-Community Activity: Affirming Success

Chapter 11 - 575 KB

Includes

  • Chapter Eleven: Develop a support network. Look to family, friends, and teachers.
  • Mentor Tip: Teen Support
  • Mentor Tip: Supportive Environment
  • Mentor Tip: Self-Determination Support
  • Mentor Tip: Teen Relationships with Adults
  • E-Community Activity: Developing Relationships with Adults
  • E-Community Activity: Working with Adults
  • E-Community Activity: Participating in Activities
  • E-Community Activity: Being a Good Friend
  • Mentor Tip: Friendships
  • E-Community Activity: Developing Friendships
  • E-Community Activity: Locating a Career OneStop
  • E-Community Activity: Finding Resources and Support

Chapter 12- 357 KB

Includes

  • PART III: WHERE TO GO FROM HERE
  • Chapter Twelve: Share your story.
  • E-Community Activity: Share Your Views on Success
  • E-Community Activity: Share Your Views on Goals
  • E-Community Activity: Share Your Views on Abilities
  • E-Community Activity: Share Your Views on Strategies
  • E-Community Activity: Share Your Views on Technology
  • E-Community Activity: Share Your Views on Working Hard
  • E-Community Activity: Share Your Views on Support Network

Chapter 13- 460 KB

Includes

  • Chapter Thirteen: Sample Documents
  • Sample Mentor Guidelines
  • Sample Protégé Guidelines
  • Sample Mentor Application
  • Sample Parent/Guardian Consent

Chapter 14 - 474 KB

Includes

  • Chapter Fourteen: Resources and Bibliography
  • Electronic Resources
  • Bibliography

Index- 150 KB

© 2006 University of Washington
Permission is granted to copy these materials for noncommercial purposes provided the source is acknowledged.

This book was developed with funding from The Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation and the National Science Foundation (cooperative agreement #HRD-0227995). However, the contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the funding sources, and you should not assume their endorsement.

Preface


Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
— Thomas A. Edison — 


We all have defining moments in our lives. However, much of our development comes through small, incremental steps in which friends, parents, teachers, and counselors play roles. As mentors, caring adults may have established long-term relationships with us and promoted our success. Many seemingly inconsequential interactions shaped who we are now and who we will become.

Although most of this networking develops informally, supportive relationships can be intentionally promoted. This book tells how to create and sustain an electronic community designed to support teens with disabilities. Strategies and content can be easily adapted to other populations.

The personal stories, mentoring tips, and activities for teens with disabilities included in this book can be used in an online mentoring community (also called an electronic mentoring community or e-mentoring community) to promote success in school, careers, and other life experiences. It includes steps that lead to a happy, healthy, successful future for anyone, regardless of the presence of a disability. In the community of young people and mentors described in this book, key questions are asked, but simple answers are not provided. It is a place where everyone can find opinions that reflect their own as well as alternative views. Online discussions help participants more fully understand themselves, as well as individuals and systems with whom they interact, as they chart their own course to success.

The set of strategies presented in this book has its foundation in the large body of research and practice in the areas of:

  • success
  • self-determination
  • transition
  • mentoring
  • peer support
  • community building
  • electronic communication

We know too well that postsecondary academic, career, and independent living outcomes for people with disabilities are discouraging. We often hear about the problems young people with disabilities face—physical obstacles, social rejection, academic failure, unemployment, drug abuse, and medical crises. Much research focuses on identifying these problems and then developing specific strategies for overcoming them. This approach is consistent with research and practice regarding adolescents from other high-risk groups, which concentrate on helping youth avoid identified problems—pregnancy, drug abuse, high school dropout, criminal activity, academic failure, gang membership—or deal with these problems once they exist. In contrast, this book presents strategies that contribute to the overall positive development of youth, which will also help them avoid many types of problems in the future, as well as successfully deal with those they ultimately face.

After all, some people do overcome significant challenges and lead successful lives. What does success mean to them, and how do they achieve it? What internal characteristics do these individuals possess, and what external factors have been present in their lives? What advice do they have for helping young people build personal strengths to overcome the challenges they face now, as well as those they no doubt will face in the future? How can these individuals with relevant insights be brought together with young people with disabilities as they travel the road to adulthood? How can long-term relationships with mentors and peers help young people develop into competent, contributing, and content adults? How can successful strategies be applied in an online forum?

Overview of this Book

Photo of DO-IT Director Sheryl Burgstahler advises a DO-IT Ambassador while she works on her computer in an office setting.

Sheryl Burgstahler advises a DO-IT Ambassador.

This book and the complementary video series, Taking Charge: Stories of Success and Self-Determination, explore positive internal characteristics and external factors that contribute to success—personally, socially, spiritually, academically, and professionally. These factors can be used to provoke thought and promote interaction between teens and caring adults.

The book also tells how you can set up a mentoring community on the Internet where young people and their mentors share ideas that contribute to a successful transition to adult life. A complementary video for this book, Opening Doors: Mentoring on the Internet, shares reports from teens and mentors who have participated in a successful e-mentoring community sponsored by DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking and Technology). Another video, How DO-IT Does It, shares details about the DO-IT Scholars program, within which this mentoring community is one strategy to help teens with disabilities achieve success in postsecondary education and careers.

Another complementary video, DO-IT Pals: An Internet Community, tells teens how to gain maximum benefit from and have fun in an electronic mentoring community. It also invites teens with disabilities to join the DO-IT Pals online community.

If you wish to set up your own electronic mentoring community, follow the instructions provided in Part I of this book and then choose online activities from Part II that are most appropriate for your participants. The discussion exercises described are targeted to college-bound teens with disabilities—high school students for whom a technical college, community college, or four-year institution is part of their future plans. However, activities can be easily modified for teens without disabilities, individuals at other age levels, and young people with different goals. For students whose reading level is low, speech output software can be used to read the messages aloud, or the student can work with an assistant side by side. The content of this book can also be used to stimulate in-person conversations and activities within your home, community group, summer camp, or classroom.

In this book you will not find the stories of movie stars, international leaders, or other celebrities. Although the content is based on personal experiences of successful people with disabilities, all of the people represented here would not be considered superachievers in all areas of their lives. You'll hear the stories of everyday people striving for the best life has to offer. This book highlights advice from people who confront barriers as challenges rather than deterrents, who find insight and humor during trying times. It shares some of the attitudes, skills, and strategies that have contributed to the success of people with a wide range of disabilities, abilities, experiences, and personalities. The experts who provide the major content for this book share their dreams, goals, challenges, successes, and frustrations. They tell about their experiences and give advice about how to successfully transition from high school to college, careers, and independent living. Perhaps their stories will provide inspiration as you help those around you define and achieve success for themselves.

In short, this publication is:

  • a how-to book for setting up an electronic mentoring community
  • an invitation to recruit teens with disabilities to the DO-IT Pals online program
  • a collection of activities to help teens with disabilities develop self-determination skills and transition to college, careers, and independent living
  • a place where you will gain insights from successful individuals who have met and continue to meet life's challenges, including those imposed by disabilities

History and Current Trends Regarding People with Disabilities

For much of the content of this book, experts—people with disabilities who have been successful in academic studies and/or careers—were consulted. There are few publications like this in which the voices of people with disabilities are heard. Why is this the case? At least a partial answer lies in the history of isolation, exclusion, and dependence of people with disabilities (Fleischer & Zames, 2001).

Photo of Four students working in a group to solve a problem sit around a table in a classroom.

Exclusion and Dependence

In early times, children born with disabilities were hidden and sometimes even killed. Feelings of shame and guilt were often associated with giving birth to a child with a disability. Sometimes the disability was blamed on sins of family members. Even as people with disabilities became more accepted, society viewed disability as a personal tragedy with which the individual and family must cope. Feelings of pity and actions of charity were typically evoked in others. Even successful individuals such as Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to hide their disabilities. Early on, organizations focused on the prevention and cure of disabilities. Successful funding campaigns, even to this day, often share images of helpless children with disabilities apparently doomed to a miserable life. In the 40s and 50s parents organized and advocated for education and services for their children with disabilities, but the children were not routinely encouraged to advocate for themselves. Children with disabilities rarely encountered successful adults with disabilities.

Civil Rights and Accommodations

The impact of the return of disabled veterans after World War II and the fights for civil rights of women and racial and ethnic minorities contributed to changing perspectives on disability in the United States. Growing numbers of people with disabilities and their advocates saw that it was not disability but rather an inaccessible environment and the negative attitudes of others that were the greatest contributors to the restrictions they encountered. Their view that access to programs and services was a civil right led to legislation that included the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Education of All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (later updated and renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, IDEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). These and other laws mandate that people with disabilities have full access to education, transportation, technology, employment, and other life experiences. Sometimes this requires that reasonable accommodations be made.

Universal Design and Diversity

Although buildings are now built with accessibility features as part of the original design, only recently has the concept of universal design been promoted in the development of technology, learning environments, services, work sites, and information resources (Burgstahler, 2001b). When universal design principles are applied, environments, programs, and resources are accessible to people with a broad range of abilities, disabilities, and other characteristics, minimizing the need for special accommodations. Widespread applications of universal design can ultimately lead to a world that is more accessible to everyone. They support the full inclusion of people with disabilities and other underrepresented groups in recognition that diversity is a necessary condition for excellence in education, employment, and social settings.

Self-Determination and Independence

The content of this book is supported by decades of research and scholarship that tell us about how individuals with different types of disabilities lead challenging and rewarding lives. Simply put, this book is about self-determination. But what is self-determination? There are many definitions from which to choose. The following definition (Field, Martin, Miller, Ward, & Wehmeyer, 1998, 1999) provides a foundation for the content of activities in this book.

Self-determination is a combination of skills, knowledge, and beliefs that enable a person to engage in goal-directed, self-regulated, autonomous behavior. An understanding of one's strengths and limitations together with a belief in oneself as capable and effective are essential to self-determination. When acting on the basis of these skills and attitudes, individuals have greater ability to take control of their lives and assume the role of successful adults. (Field et al., 1998, p. 2)

The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), along with many other professional organizations and parent groups, embraces instruction in self-determination as a way to improve academic and career outcomes for youth with disabilities. Self-determination is also promoted in legislative mandates. For example, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires that students with disabilities actively participate in their transition planning and that their preferences and interests be considered. It affirms the right of people with disabilities to self-determination.

Photo of Student in wheelchair types on a keyboard.
 

Gaining control over one's life involves learning and applying self-determination skills. These include self-awareness, goal-setting, problem-solving, and self-advocacy. The personal process of learning, applying, and evaluating these skills in a variety of settings is at the heart of self-determined behavior that leads to successful transitions to adulthood. The activities in this book provide opportunities for young people to reflect on their own experiences as well as learn and practice self-determination skills. They share the lessons learned by those who are successfully traveling the road to self-determined lives and provide a model of how young people can be guided toward self-determined behavior within an online mentoring community. Although not a comprehensive course on self-determination, the activities in this book are consistent with the performance-based standards for the preparation of special educators adopted by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (2002) for program accreditation. Examples of characteristics of special education teachers that directly address components of self-determined behavior noted in this report include:

  • "enhance the learning of critical thinking, problem solving,...." (p. 2)
  • "increase their self-awareness, self-management, self-control, self-reliance, and self-esteem." (p. 2)
  • "emphasize the development, maintenance, and generalization of knowledge and skills across environments, settings, and the lifespan." (p. 3)
  • "foster....positive social interactions, and active engagement,...." (p.3)
  • "encourage the independence, self-motivation, self-direction, personal empowerment, and self-advocacy...."(p.3)
  • "develop a variety of individualized transition plans, such as transition from preschool to elementary school and from secondary settings to a variety of postsecondary and learning contexts." (p. 4)
  • "use collaboration to facilitate the successful transitions...." (p. 6)

Growing evidence suggests that enhanced self-determination skills enable students with disabilities to perform more effectively in academic studies and thus support the goals of No Child Left Behind legislation and standards-based school reform. In addition, many state standards for students include elements of self-determined behavior such as goal setting, problem solving, and decision making. There exists a wide variety of self-determination curricula; some can be located by consulting the resources and bibliography in Chapter Fourteen of this book. The activities in this book were developed after a comprehensive literature review, with special attention given to the self-determination curriculum that has been field-tested (Test, Karvonen, Wood, Browder, & Algozzine, 2000).

Developing self-determination skills within an online mentoring community has limitations. It is recommended that the activities in this book be augmented with opportunities to apply what is learned. Teachers, parents, and other caring adults can help young people by providing opportunities for choice, problem solving, and decision making. For very young children, letting them choose between several books to read, games to play, or clothes to wear may be appropriate; as they grow older, opportunities for greater control should be provided. The key is steady growth in the number and complexity of choices they can make that affect their lives.

DO-IT

In 1992, with a grant from the National Science Foundation, I founded DO-IT at the University of Washington. DO-IT has grown from that seed into a collection of projects and programs that help young people with disabilities successfully pursue college and careers, using technology as an empowering tool. The disabilities of participants in DO-IT programs include sensory impairments, mobility impairments, attention deficits, and learning disabilities. DO-IT also helps educators, technology staff, librarians, and employers create academic offerings, information resources, and employment opportunities that are accessible to people with disabilities. (Burgstahler, 2006a, 2003a; Kim-Rupnow & Burgstahler, 2004).

My motivation to create DO-IT drew from both personal and professional experiences. My relationship with a family friend who was developmentally disabled taught me at a young age that no single set of criteria should be used to measure success. From my years as a middle and high school teacher I gained insight into the challenges teens face as they move toward adult life and the corresponding challenges caring adults face as they try to help them on this journey. Personal experiences with young people and adults with disabilities taught me that the low expectations and negative attitudes of others create the greatest barriers to success for people with disabilities and that facing the challenge of a disability is too often an isolating experience. My close relationship with a child who is quadriplegic revealed the doors that can be opened with assistive technology, telecommunications, and alternative strategies for reaching goals. My roles as an aunt and as a mother created my greatest interest in exploring how we can help children define success for themselves and develop the beliefs, attitudes, and skills they need to set and reach these goals.

DO-IT is a collection of projects and programs to increase the number of people with disabilities who:

  • use technology as an empowering tool
  • communicate with peers and mentors in a supportive electronic community
  • develop self-determination skills
  • succeed in postsecondary education and employment
  • pursue careers that were once considered unavailable to them, such as science and engineering
  • have opportunities to participate and contribute in all aspects of life

Life Stages of DO-IT Participants

Level Participants
High School DO-IT Scholars
DO-IT Pals
College DO-IT Ambassadors
DO-IT Mentors
Careers DO-IT Ambassadors
DO-IT Mentors

Most of the stories and advice presented in this book belong to DO-IT Scholars, Pals, Ambassadors, and Mentors. DO-IT Scholars are college-bound high school students with disabilities who are self-motivated, are successful in school, and show leadership potential. Their disabilities include mobility impairments, visual impairments, hearing impairments, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, speech impairments, and health impairments. Scholars attend at least two residential Summer Study programs at the University of Washington in Seattle. They are introduced to college life, resources, and academic studies and develop self-determination skills. They participate in internships and other work-based learning experiences that prepare them for career success.

With computers and assistive technology, they use the Internet to access information and communicate with others in a stimulating electronic community. High school graduates who continue to participate as DO-IT Scholar alumni become DO-IT Ambassadors. As Ambassadors, they mentor younger Scholars and contribute to DO-IT efforts in many ways. The community also includes DO-IT Mentors—other college students, faculty, and professionals in a wide variety of fields, many of whom have disabilities themselves. DO-IT Pals, college-bound teens with disabilities from around the world who wish to participate in our online mentoring community, have joined the DO-IT family as well. The success of this approach where young people and adults share their views in a mentoring community motivated me to include the perspectives of a large group of people with disabilities in this book.

During the more than a dozen years I have initiated and directed DO-IT's successful electronic community, I have often been asked by other program directors how to design and support their participants through similar online interactions. It is easy to describe the basic scheme. But attention to myriad details and ongoing operations makes the system work. This book shares both the process and examples of the content of DO-IT's electronic community in a way that lessons learned can be applied in other circumstances and with different audiences. The fact that our participants have disabilities, for example, is just one characteristic of our target audience. The basic concepts and activities can be tailored to any group of teens, or, with some modifications, they can be used with younger students, with adults, or with students from other groups facing special challenges due to racial/ethnic background, gender, or socioeconomic status.

The Role of Technology in Creating this Book

Photo of student on the left helps student on the right with mouse operation,
 

Most of the personal stories, online activities for teens, and tips for mentors included in this book were collected over the Internet. To complete this work, I sent questions via electronic mail to DO-IT Scholars, Pals, Ambassadors, and Mentors and to some participants with disabilities in other programs funded by the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation. Contributions were returned in email messages. Those who are blind used speech and Braille output systems to read my requests. Those with mobility impairments used specialized software and alternative keyboards to enter their contributions. For those who have difficulty communicating face to face because of speech or hearing impairments, their disabilities did not impact their participation in these Internet-based communications.

Responses to requests for input were numerous and lengthy. I edited the original messages to fit the material into a book of reasonable length. I attempted to capture the essence of each contribution.

What You'll Find in this Book

The chapters in this book take you on a journey of discovery, looking at success and self-determination from a variety of perspectives and learning how students with disabilities can be supported within an online mentoring community. The book is divided into three main sections.

PART I addresses the philosophy and purpose of online mentoring. It tells how to establish the community, recruit and train mentors and protégés, provide guidelines for participants, and initiate online discussions. Complementary videos reinforce this content.

PART II is organized around seven recommendations that were synthesized from hundreds of responses from the young people and adults with disabilities who contributed to the content (Burgstahler, 2006c):

  1. Define success for yourself.
  2. Set personal, academic, and career goals. Keep your expectations high.
  3. Understand your abilities and disabilities. Play to your strengths.
  4. Develop strategies to reach your goals.
  5. Use technology as an empowering tool.
  6. Work hard. Persevere. Be flexible.
  7. Develop a support network. Look to family, friends, and teachers.

Each chapter contains the text of messages to support an online community. Each can be sent by a program administrator to mentors alone or to mentors and protégés together.

PART III presents protégés and mentors with a forum to share their own stories and experiences and suggests additional resources for participants and administrators.

How to Use this Book

Photo of Sheryl Burgstahler points to something on a computer screen for DO-IT Ambassador.
 

This book is designed for use by a parent, guardian, teacher, or program administrator searching for strategies to help young people with disabilities gain the skills they need to lead successful, self-determined lives. Specific guidelines are included for setting up and supporting a mentoring community on the Internet. If you do not have access to the Internet at home or school, explore Internet access options at your local library. Once the technical aspects of the community are dealt with and the participants identified, the electronic community administrator should choose mentoring tips and online activities that are appropriate for the people with whom they work. Although the online activities are presented in a logical order, they can be used in any order appropriate for the target audience.

Completing the activities presented in this book will help precollege students with disabilities identify their strengths and challenges and develop skills for success in all areas of their lives. If you are not in a position to create and support an electronic community, consider using the activities in a classroom, computer lab, summer program, or other setting, with or without computers. Activities can be completed independently but are more stimulating when a young person works with a fellow student, mentor, or other adult. In a group with their peers, even reluctant learners choose to participate. Sharing responses and ideas in a small group stimulates a rich discussion once participants realize there are no right answers and everyone's opinion has value.

How to Download or Purchase this Book and Complementary Videos

It might be helpful for you to have electronic copies of the exercises for modification and application in your setting. The most current electronic copy of these materials can be found at www.washington.edu/doit/Mentor. Videos that complement the content of this book can also be found there for free online viewing; trainers can freely download copies of videos to project from their own computers by directing requests to doit@u.washington.edu. Other DO-IT videos can be viewed at www.washington.edu/doit/Video.

Copies of the printed book and videos can also be purchased from DO-IT. Details can be found at www.washington.edu/doit/Brochures/Order. Free DO-IT publications can be found at www.washington.edu/doit/Brochures.

Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D.
Founder and Director, DO-IT
College of Engineering and Computer Science
Computing & Communications
College of Education
University of Washington

Part I: Creating an Electronic Mentoring Community

PART I of this book, comprising Chapters One through Four, addresses the philosophy and purpose of online mentoring. It tells how to design an electronic mentoring community, recruit and train participants, promote online discussion, and begin to explore the topics of success and self-determination.

The entire content of this book can be found at www.washington.edu/doit/Mentor. Use this electronic version to cut, paste, and modify appropriate content for distribution to participants in your electronic community; please acknowledge the source.


Chapter One provides an introduction to the philosophy and purpose of online mentoring and explores its benefits to participants. Along with the complementary video, DO-IT Pals: An Internet Community, this chapter shares the model of the DO-IT online community.

Chapter Two explains a step-by-step process for setting up an online mentoring community where young people are supported by caring adults. A complementary video, Opening Doors: Mentoring on the Internet, reinforces basic mentoring concepts and methods and documents the value of online mentoring for both mentors and protégés. How DO-IT Does It provides the context in which an electronic mentoring community is employed as a strategy to promote the success of people with disabilities.

Chapter Three addresses orientation and training to help new mentors prepare for the unique challenges of online mentoring. It includes email messages for mentors, as well as guidelines to send to new protégés regarding communication and Internet safety.

In Chapter Four mentors and protégés begin to explore the topics of success and self-determination. Five stories of success and self-determination are presented in the video series Taking Charge: Stories of Success and Self-Determination. This chapter introduces the content explored in depth in PART II of the book.

Chapter One

An Introduction to E-mentoring and E-communities


No country, however rich, can afford the waste of its human resources. 
— Franklin D. Roosevelt — 


Individuals with disabilities experience far less career success than their peers who do not have disabilities; however, differences in achievement diminish significantly for those who participate in postsecondary education (Blackorby & Wagner, 1996; Stodden & Dowrick, 2000; Yelin & Katz, 1994). College graduates with disabilities achieve success in employment close to that achieved by those without disabilities. Although the rate of participation in higher education is lower for people with disabilities than it is for people without disabilities, this difference is diminishing (Henderson, 2001; National Council on Disability, 2000).

A bachelor's degree or higher is a prerequisite for many challenging careers, including high-tech fields in science, engineering, business, and technology. Few students with disabilities pursue postsecondary academic studies in these areas, and the attrition rate of those who do is high (National Science Foundation, 2000; Stodden & Dowrick, 2000).

Lack of job skills and related experiences also limit career options for people with disabilities (Colley & Jamieson, 1998; Unger, Wehman, Yasuda, Campbell, & Green, 2001). They also have little contact with other people with disabilities and, thus, limited access to positive role models with disabilities (Seymour & Hunter, 1998).

Low expectations of and lack of encouragement from those with whom they interact can impede the realization of the full potential of people with disabilities in challenging fields. Support systems in high school are no longer available after graduation, and many students with disabilities lack the self-determination, academic, and independent living skills necessary to make successful transitions to college and careers (National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities, 1999).

Youth with disabilities more often continue to live with their parents or in other dependent living situations after high school than their peers without disabilities. They also engage in fewer social activities. The effect of social isolation can be far-reaching, affecting not only personal well-being but also academic and career success (Seymour & Hunter, 1998).

The lives of some people with disabilities demonstrate that they can overcome challenges imposed by inaccessible facilities, curriculum materials, equipment, and electronic resources; lack of encouragement; and inadequate academic preparation and support (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2001; National Center for Educational Statistics, 2000; National Council on Disability and Social Security Administration, 2000). Steps to careers for students with disabilities include preparing for, transitioning to, and completing a college education; participating in relevant work experiences; and transitioning from an academic program to a career position.

Research studies have identified successful practices for bringing students from underrepresented groups into challenging fields of study and employment. They include the provision of:

  • technology
  • programs that bridge between academic levels and between school and work
  • work-based learning opportunities
  • peer support
  • mentoring

In this chapter, strategies developed in DO-IT's award-winning online mentoring community are shared so that you can apply successful practices in your program.

Acknowledgement: Much of the content of this chapter is published in earlier work (Burgstahler, 1997, 2003b, 2006a; Burgstahler & Cronheim, 1999, 2001; DO-IT, 2005).

Peer, Near-Peer, and Mentor Support

Most of us can think of people in our lives who supplied information, offered advice, presented a challenge, initiated a friendship, or simply expressed an interest in our development as a person. Without their intervention we might have remained unaware of a resource, neglected to consider an exciting opportunity, progressed toward a goal at a slower pace, or given up on a goal altogether.

Photo of Two DO-IT Ambassadors using sign language to talk to each other in a computer lab.

Supportive relationships with peers and adults can positively impact the transition period following high school when a student's structured environment ends and precollege support systems are no longer in place. Within social support systems, participants provide what has been defined as communication support behavior, "whereby individuals within a formal social system offer and receive information and support from one another in a one-way or reciprocal manner" (Hill, Bahniuk, Dobos, & Rouner, 1989, p. 356).

Mentor Support

The term mentor comes from Homer's Odyssey, in which a man named Mentor was assigned the task of educating the son of Odysseus. Protégé (or mentee) refers to the person who is the focus of the mentor's efforts. Mentoring has long been associated with a variety of activities including counseling, role modeling, job shadowing, advice-giving, and networking.

Young people with disabilities can be positively influenced by observing role models with similar disabilities successfully pursuing education and careers that they might otherwise have thought impossible for themselves. Mentors can help their protégés explore career options, set academic and career goals, examine different lifestyles, develop social and professional contacts, identify resources, strengthen interpersonal skills, achieve higher levels of autonomy, and develop a sense of identity and competence. Information, guidance, motivation, resources, and emotional support provided by mentors can help young people successfully transition from high school into the less structured environments of postsecondary education, employment, and community living.

Protégés report benefits of mentoring to include

  • better attitudes toward school and the future,
  • decreased likelihood of initiating drug or alcohol use,
  • greater feelings of academic competence,
  • improved academic performance, and
  • more positive relationships with friends and family (Campbell-Whatley, 2001).

Protégés are not the only ones who benefit from mentoring relationships. Adults can also find satisfaction in their helping roles. Common positive effects for mentors include

  • increased self-esteem,
  • feeling of accomplishment,
  • insights into childhood and adolescence, and
  • personal gain, such as increased patience, a sense of effectiveness, and the acquisition of new skills or knowledge (Rhodes, Grossman, and Resch, 2000).

In summary, "mentoring is a win-win situation. Young people win, adult volunteers win. It is, quite frankly, society at large that is eventually the real winner" (Saito & Blyth, 1992, p. 60).

Group Mentoring

At least in part because of a shortage of available adult mentors, group mentoring programs have emerged. Typically, in this model one mentor is assigned to a small group of young people. In group mentoring, mentors cannot provide as much individual attention to each young person as they might in the traditional one-to-one model, but positive outcomes can also be achieved as a result of participant interactions. Although, as with one-to-one mentoring, most group mentors want to develop personal relationships with protégés, they also promote positive peer interactions. Participants report that group mentoring helps them improve social skills, relationships with individuals outside of the group, and, to a lesser extent, academic performance and attitudes (Herrera, Vang, & Gale, 2002; Sipe & Roder, 1999).

Peer and Near-Peer Support

Peers can offer some of the same benefits to young people as mentors. Like mentors, peers can coach and counsel, offer information and advice, provide encouragement, act as sounding boards, function as positive role models, and promote a sense of belonging. Peers of the same age offer unique opportunities for sharing, are easier for participants to approach than adult mentors, and typically develop relationships that are longer lasting than those established with adults. While mentoring relationships are primarily one-way helping relationships, peer relationships offer a higher degree of mutual assistance, with both individuals giving and receiving support. Peers facing similar challenges related to their disabilities can share strategies to overcome disability-related barriers.

Relationships with individuals who are a year or two older than protégés, sometimes called near-peers, offer a powerful combination of the benefits of peer and mentor relationships. Near-peers and protégés can discuss issues such as whom on campus to tell about a disability, how to communicate with professors about accommodations, how to live independently, and how to make friends. In addition, near-peers can become empowered as they come to see themselves as contributors and role models.

Computer-Mediated Communication

Mentor, peer, and near-peer relationships have the potential to provide students with disabilities with psychosocial, academic, and career support, thereby lessening or eliminating some of the unique challenges they face. However, these types of relationships can be limited by physical distance, time, and schedule constraints and, in some cases, disability-related communication barriers (e.g., speech impairments, deafness).

Photo of DO-IT Scholars receive computer assistance from DO-IT Ambassadors.
 

For these relationships to be successful, it is often necessary to match young people and mentors who are in close geographic locations. Even if such relationships can be established, communication, transportation, and scheduling problems must be resolved. In short, arranging traditional in-person mentoring and peer support for this population is problematic.

Computer-mediated communication (CMC), wherein people use computers and networks to communicate with one another, makes communication across great distances and different time zones convenient, eliminating the time and geographic constraints of in-person communication. CMC facilitates the development of communities for people with common interests, regardless of their physical locations. Using electronic mail, text messaging, chat rooms, web-based forums, and other technology to sustain meaningful relationships between people who are geographically disconnected allows us to reconsider the concept of community as a physical location. The lack of social cues and social distinctions like gender, age, disability, race, and physical appearance in CMC can make even shy participants willing to share their views.

The development of computers and assistive technology makes electronic communication possible for all individuals, regardless of disability. For example, a person who is blind or has a disability that makes reading difficult can use text-to-speech software to read aloud text presented on a computer screen. An individual with limited use of his hands can use a trackball, a headstick, speech input, or an alternative keyboard to control the computer; and a person with a speech or hearing impairment may be able to participate more fully in communications when they are conducted electronically.

E-Mentoring Communities

Online discussion groups, chat rooms, web-based forums, and other CMC vehicles have emerged as popular tools for interaction between individuals within groups. When CMC is the mode for communication between mentors and their protégés, it has been called e-mentoring, online mentoring, or telementoring. As in traditional on-site mentoring, the mentor, often an adult, develops a close relationship with a younger person in order to promote his or her well-being and success.

One advantage of an online mentoring community (or electronic mentoring community, or e-community), as compared to more traditional one-to-one electronic mentoring, is that mentors observe the communications of other mentors as well as the responses of all of the young people in the community. In this format, once basic guidelines are provided, mentors learn effective mentoring techniques on the job. They can also more effectively and efficiently share their expertise and insights, since no individual is responsible for providing all mentoring communications with a specific protégé in the community. With this approach, each participant benefits from the expertise of a group of mentors, peers, and near-peers.

DO-IT's E-Mentoring Community

In DO-IT programs, mentor, peer, and near-peer support sometimes occurs in person, but most of the time is delivered through its e-mentoring community. Participants are mentored within a group, and many contributors are included in interactions. Participants also disseminate academic and career-enhancing resources that benefit all community members. Positive aspects of DO-IT's e-community approach include the following:

  • Individuals benefit from the experiences of a large group of mentors, peers, and near-peers.
  • Mentors can specialize in the areas of their strongest expertise.
  • The program performs successfully even though some mentors are less available and skilled than others.
  • Using asynchronous, text-based communication on the Internet eliminates barriers faced by other forms of communication that are imposed by location, schedule, and disability.
  • The program administrator views all group communications that take place, thus finding it easy to guide and contribute to conversations.
  • Mentors learn techniques from each other by attending to the communications that take place.
Photo of Student in wheelchair using a mouse to work on a computer program about blocks.
 

Most DO-IT Mentors are college students, faculty, engineers, scientists, or other professionals who have disabilities. Protégés are participants in the DO-IT Scholars and DO-IT Pals programs (DO-IT, 2006a,c; Burgstahler, 2007). These students are making plans for postsecondary education and careers. They all have disabilities, including vision, hearing, mobility, and health impairments and specific learning disabilities. Frequent electronic communications and personal contacts bring DO-IT protégés, near-peers, and mentors together to facilitate academic, career, and personal achievements.

Introducing protégés to DO-IT Mentors with similar disabilities is a strength of DO-IT's program. One protégé reported she had never met an adult with a hearing impairment like hers before getting involved in DO-IT: "But when I met him, I was so surprised how he had such a normal life, and he had a family, and he worked with people who had normal hearing. So he made me feel a lot better about my future."


DO-IT's E-Mentoring Participants

DO-IT Scholars

High school students with disabilities who are accepted into the DO-IT Scholars program communicate electronically with Mentors and other DO-IT participants using computers and, if necessary, assistive technology. DO-IT Scholars who do not have the necessary technology are loaned equipment and software. DO-IT Scholars attend summer programs at the University of Washington in Seattle where they participate in academic lectures and labs, live in residence halls, and practice skills that will help them succeed in college and career settings.

DO-IT Ambassadors

When DO-IT Scholars graduate from high school and move on to postsecondary studies, they can become DO-IT Ambassadors, sharing their experiences and advice with DO-IT Scholars and DO-IT Pals and otherwise promoting DO-IT goals.

DO-IT Pals

Teens with disabilities who want to go to college and who have access to the Internet can apply to become DO-IT Pals. DO-IT Pals come from all over the world and use the Internet to explore academic and career interests and communicate with DO-IT Scholars, Ambassadors, and Mentors. To become a DO-IT Pal, a teenager with a disability who already has access to the Internet must send email to doit@u.washington.edu.

DO-IT Mentors

Adult Mentors are an important part of the DO-IT team. DO-IT Mentors are college students, faculty, and professionals in a wide variety of career fields. Many DO-IT Mentors have disabilities themselves. Mentors support DO-IT Scholars, Ambassadors, and Pals as they transition to college, careers, and self-determined lives.

DO-IT Staff

The e-mentoring community administrator monitors discussions, introduces new members to the group, and sends messages with mentoring tips to the mentors and lessons and activities to all members of the community. Other staff join in discussions, particularly during times of low participation by others, and send useful information and resources.


DO-IT e-community participants learn strategies for success in academics and employment. Mentors provide direction and motivation, instill values, promote professionalism, and help protégés develop leadership skills. As one DO-IT Scholar noted, "It feels so nice to know that there are adults with disabilities or who know a lot about disabilities, because I think that people who are about to go to college or start their adult life can learn a lot from mentors . . ." As DO-IT Scholars move from high school to college and careers, they too, as DO-IT Ambassadors, become mentors and role models, sharing their experiences with younger participants.

There are probably as many mentoring styles as there are personality types, and no one can be everything to one person. Each DO-IT participant benefits from contact with many mentors, peers, and near-peers. One-to-one relationships develop naturally as common interests are identified by pairs of mentors, protégés, peers, and near-peers. DO-IT also facilitates communication in small groups through the use of electronic discussion lists. For example, one group includes Mentors, protégés, and near-peers who are blind. Participants in this group discuss common interests and concerns such as independent living, speech and Braille output systems, and options for displaying images and mathematical expressions.

While most communication occurs electronically, some Mentors and near-peers meet DO-IT Scholars during DO-IT Summer Study programs on the University of Washington Seattle campus and at other DO-IT activities across the United States. In-person contact strengthens relationships formed online.

DO-IT has been studying the nature and value of electronic mentoring since 1993. Thousands of electronic mail messages were collected, coded, and analyzed; surveys were distributed to DO-IT Scholars and Mentors, and focus groups were conducted (Burgstahler & Cronheim, 2001).

Findings suggest that computer-mediated communication can be used to initiate and sustain peer-peer and mentor-protégé relationships and alleviate barriers to traditional communications due to time and schedule limitations, physical distances, and disabilities of participants. Both young people and mentors actively communicate on the Inter-net and report positive experiences in using the Internet as a communication tool.

The Internet gives these young people support from peers and adults otherwise difficult to reach, connects them to a rich collection of resources, and provides opportunities to learn and contribute. Participants note benefits over other types of communication. They include the ability to communicate over great distances quickly, easily, conveniently, and inexpensively; the elimination of the barriers of distance and schedule; the ability to communicate with more than one person at one time; and the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. Many report the added value that people treat them equally because they are not immediately aware of their disabilities. Negative aspects of electronic communication include difficulties in clearly expressing ideas and feelings, high volumes of messages, and occasional technical difficulties.

Photo of DO-IT Scholar in wheelchair smiling at the camera while she uses the touch-pad on her laptop.
 

DO-IT's online program has received national recognition with its 1997 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mentoring "for embodying excellence in mentoring underrepresented students and encouraging their significant achievement in science, mathematics, and engineering." It also received the National Information Infrastructure Award in 1995 "for those whose achievements demonstrate what is possible when the powerful forces of human creativity and technologies are combined." Research results suggest the success of the DO-IT electronic community in promoting positive college and career outcomes (e.g., Burgstahler, 1997, 2001, 2002b, 2003a; Burgstahler & Cronheim, 2001; Kim-Rupnow & Burgstahler, 2004). But more importantly, the DO-IT electronic mentoring community has documented its value in the successful lives of its participants and the willingness of those who were once protégés to support young people in the community as they were supported in their youth.

The findings of research on DO-IT's e-mentoring community suggest that peer-peer and mentor-protégé relationships on the Internet perform similar functions in providing participants with psychosocial, academic, and career support. However, each type of relationship has its unique strengths. For example, peer-peer communication includes more personal information than exchanges between mentors and protégés.

Building on the successes of DO-IT and other online mentoring programs, practitioners should consider using the Internet as a vehicle for developing and supporting positive peer and mentor relationships.


Contributions of DO-IT Participants

Everyone in the DO-IT electronic mentoring community benefits from participation. DO-IT Mentors and near-peers in their mentoring role offer protégés

  • InformationMentors share their knowledge and experiences.
  • ContactsMentors introduce their protégés to valuable academic, career, and personal contacts.
  • ChallengesMentors stimulate curiosity and build confidence by offering new ideas, strategies, and opportunities.
  • SupportMentors encourage growth and achievement by providing an open and supportive environment.
  • DirectionMentors help protégés discover their talents and interests and devise strategies to attain their goals.
  • AdviceMentors make suggestions to help protégés reach academic, career, and personal goals.
  • Role ModelingMentors let protégés know who they are and how they have reached their goals.

DO-IT protégés offer Mentors

  • ChallengeMentors develop their own personal styles for sharing their skills and knowledge via electronic communication.
  • Opportunities to Help Set GoalsMentors encourage DO-IT participants to listen to their hearts and think about what they really want to do.
  • A Chance to Share StrategiesMentors pass on hard-earned experiences.
  • New IdeasMentors join an active community of talented students and professionals with a wide range of disabilities who are eager to share their own strategies for problem solving and success.
  • FunMentors share in the lives of motivated young people, listening to them, hearing about their dreams, helping them along the road to success—it's fun!

Joining an Existing Online Mentoring Program

As is apparent by the size of this book, it takes a great deal of time and effort to develop and support your own electronic mentoring community. Steps involved are outlined in the following chapter. If you do not have the resources to make this commitment, consider finding an existing community to join. For example, DO-IT hosts an electronic community for teens with disabilities, near-peers, and mentors. DO-IT Scholars, Ambassadors, and Mentors are members. In addition, any teen with a disability who plans to go to college can apply to join the community as a DO-IT Pal. DO-IT Pals receive peer, near-peer, and mentor support, as well as access to a rich collection of resources. Teens with disabilities can simply send an email message to doit@u.washington.edu to join DO-IT Pals. More information about this program can be found in the video DO-IT Pals: An Internet Community, and the accompanying brochure, DO-IT Pals. They can be found at http://www.washington.edu/doit/Programs/pals.html or purchased from DO-IT.

Other online mentoring options for students with disabilities can be found in the DO-IT Knowledge Base article Are there electronic mentoring programs for students with disabilities? at http://www.washington.edu/doit/articles?218.

Just DO-IT!

Whether you mentor a young person, connect one child with a caring adult, create a small mentoring group in your church or school, develop an elaborate electronic mentoring community, or encourage young people to join an existing online mentoring program, find ways to make mentoring a part of the lives of the young people with whom you interact.

The next chapter tells you how to create an electronic mentoring community. The chapters that follow provide mentoring tips and activities that can be adapted for any mentoring environment.

Chapter Two

Steps to Creating an E-mentoring Community


We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.
— Sir Winston Churchill —


Creating an online mentoring community requires access to technology and Internet communication tools, administrative infrastructure, and ongoing facilitation. Following are steps for setting up your own e-mentoring community for teens with examples from the successful practices employed by DO-IT. Sample forms and documents that can be modified to suit your program are provided in Chapter Thirteen.

View the video Opening Doors: Mentoring on the Internet, for an overview of DO-IT's electronic mentoring community, as well as for testimonials from participants. To understand the program context of this e-mentoring community, view the video How DO-IT Does It. These video presentations can be purchased from DO-IT in DVD format or freely viewed at www.washington.edu/doit/Video. Consider what goals, characteristics, and outcomes of DO-IT's e-mentoring community you hope to tailor to your program.

Acknowledgement: A summary of these steps is published as an Information Brief by the National Center Secondary Education and Transition (Burgstahler, 2006b).

Establish clear goals for the program.

The ultimate goal for DO-IT participants is a successful transition to adult life. In DO-IT's supported community, participants prepare for college and employment, develop social competence, learn to use the Internet as a resource, reflect on their own experiences, practice self-determination and leadership skills, and learn from others.

Decide what technology to use.

Email coupled with electronic distribution lists, message boards, web-based forums, and chat rooms are all possibilities for supporting peer and mentor interactions. Chat and other synchronous methods require that participants be on the same schedule; this condition is too restricting for most programs. In addition, these systems are not accessible to all students, in particular to those who are very slow typists. Web-based forums are a possibility, but they require that students and mentors regularly enter the message system to participate, thus all participants must have both the motivation and the discipline to regularly access the system, and this is not true of all teens.

DO-IT has been successful with using electronic mail and distribution lists to maintain its electronic mentoring community. This text-based asynchronous approach is fully accessible to everyone and results in messages appearing in participant email inboxes. As long as they regularly access their email, it is difficult for students and mentors to ignore the conversations that occur. Guidance to participants regarding how to manage email correspondence (e.g., using folders, deleting old messages) is provided as part of participant training.

If you are interested in setting up a distribution list ask your Internet service provider if it has the capability to do this. Also explore web-based options such as those provided by topica and yahoo. All of these options forward to all members of a list any email messages sent to the list address. Assign the participants to distribution list(s) that are closed; in other words, individuals cannot become part of the community without going through the application process managed by the administrator.

Select only universally-designed technology to use for communication in your community. This means that it is fully accessible to all potential participants, including those who have disabilities. Make sure that a person who is deaf or who has a speech impairment can participate in all communications. Technology you choose should also be fully accessible to individuals who are blind and using text-to-speech adaptive technology as part of their computer system. Consult DO-IT's website on Accessible Technology for more information about accessible technology.

Establish a Discussion Group Structure.

When DO-IT had only a small number of participants, there were two e-mentoring community discussion lists, doitkids@u.washington.edu for the DO-IT Scholars and mentors@u.washington.edu for the Mentors. Mentors could communicate with each other on the mentors list, and teens could communicate with each other on the doitkids list. Messages were sent to both addresses simultaneously for conversations that included all Mentors and Scholars, like those labeled E-Community Activity in the remaining chapters of this book. When the DO-IT Pals program emerged, we created a list for these participants, doitpals@u.washington.edu. To better facilitate large-group discussions we eventually set up a distribution list, doitchat@u.washington.edu, that includes all of the members of doitkids@u.washington.edu, mentors@u.washington.edu, and doitpals@u.washington.edu. Discussions that include the full e-community take place on the doitchat list.

As the DO-IT community grew in size, individuals expressed an interest in continuing with large group conversations but also communicating in smaller groups with people whose accommodation strategies are similar to their own. To address this need, we set up several more discussion lists. For example, doithi@u.washington.edu was set up for mentors, near-peers, and protégés who have hearing impairments. Members of this list discuss topics that might not interest the larger community, such as sign language interpreters, FM systems, and cochlear implants. The figure above illustrates how individuals in the doithi group are drawn from members of the other groups.

Similarly, special distribution lists were set up for individuals with visual impairments, learning issues, and other classifications. A lead mentor and at least one DO-IT staff member is included on each distribution list to facilitate communication and to assure that all messages are appropriate.


Example of the DO-IT Discussion List Structure for Participants with Hearing Impairments.

Venn Diagram showing the overlapping relationship of some DO-IT discussion lists.

Each doithi member is also a member of doitchat and one of the groups doitkids, doitpals, and mentors.

Select an administrator for the e-mentoring community, and make other staff and volunteer assignments as needed.

The DO-IT electronic community promotes communication in group discussions that involve many mentors, near-peers, and protégés. However, to maximize participation in large communities, it is important to assign each protégé to a specific mentor who will assure the participant's regular involvement and satisfaction, but not limit his/her communication with others. For greater assurance of follow-through, it is desirable for these mentors to be paid staff. In DO-IT, for example, all DO-IT Scholars and Ambassadors are assigned to key staff members who communicate with them personally on a regular basis.

To assure supervision of lead mentors and coordination with other staff, an e-community manager was assigned. This role also includes obtaining the informed consent of parents as well as the collection and dissemination, to appropriate groups, of web resources and other information of specific interest. Other staff assignments include technical support (e.g., subscribing individuals to the distribution list and correcting email address errors) and mentoring leads for subgroups of the mentoring community.

Develop guidelines for protégés concerning appropriate and safe Internet communications.

Relationships developed with mentors become channels for the passage of information, advice, opportunities, challenges, and support, with the ultimate goals of facilitating achievement and having fun. Keep in mind that, although the majority of Internet resources and communications are not harmful to children, participants may stumble into situations or be encouraged to participate in communications that are inappropriate. They may encounter objectionable material by innocently searching for information with a search engine or mistyping a web address. On the Internet, they might:

  • see materials that include content that is sexual, violent, hateful, or otherwise inappropriate for children
  • be exposed to communications that are harassing or demeaning and, perhaps, even be drawn into these types of conversations themselves
  • be encouraged to participate in activities that promote prejudice, are unsafe, or are illegal
  • meet a predator who uses the Internet to develop trusting relationships with kids and then arranges to meet them in person
  • make unauthorized purchases using a credit card

Teenagers are particularly vulnerable to being exposed to material and engaging in activities that are inappropriate. This is because they are more likely than younger children to use computers unsupervised; have the skills to conduct searches on the Internet; participate in online discussions via email, chat, instant messaging, or bulletin board systems where inappropriate communications can occur; and have access to credit card information.

If your electronic community includes young people under the age of eighteen, obtain the informed consent of parents or guardians, making the risks and benefits of using the Internet clear. Sample content for a permission form for parents or guardians to sign is included in Chapter Thirteen of this book. Seek advice from legal experts in your organization or community as you explore ways to keep participants safe.

Establish rules for participation in your community, and distribute them to the participants and mentors. Appropriate rules depend upon the ages of participants and the nature of the community. Consider adopting a set of expectations similar to Kids' Rules for Online Safety, published at SafeKids.com, www.safekids.com/kids-rules-for-online-safety. Tailor them for your participants and encourage families to post them near Internet-connected computers in their homes. The guidelines should include your expectations for participation in the community (for example, check messages each week), child safety issues, and a statement that tells young participants to inform their parents and the e-community administrator if they receive email that is inappropriate or makes them uncomfortable. Sample guidelines can be found in Chapter Thirteen of this book.

Establish roles and develop guidelines, orientation, and training for mentors.

Determine what roles you desire mentors to perform in the program. Then develop guidelines for mentors, as well as program goals and operations that are consistent with these roles. The guidelines should be simple and straightforward and shared with potential applicants so that they understand mentor responsibilities.

Decide in what form(s) orientation and training should occur. The optimal amount of training depends on the complexity of your program and the expected roles of mentors. It is best if the training is interactive and engaging. Topics covered in the orientation should include

  • an overview of how communication is to occur. In the case of DO-IT, an email message is sent to a specific discussion list or to an individual.
  • an outline of the responsibilities, expectations, and boundaries your program has developed for both mentors and protégés.
  • general mentoring tips, as well as tips designed to teach mentors how to promote success, self-determination, and problem solving skills.
  • information to improve skills such as effective communication strategies and email netiquette.
  • resources for mentors, such as additional mentor training, disability information, education, and career development.

See Chapter Three for more information on mentor orientation and training.

Standardize Procedures for Recruiting and Screening Mentor Applicants.

Photo of DO-IT Scholar uses computer for an activity in the DO-IT computer lab.
 

Consider what recruiting methods and screening devices will be used to choose mentors. Written applications, personal interviews, reference checks, and criminal record checks should be considered. Make sure that the application packet addresses the orientation, motivation, and skills needed to perform mentoring roles and includes established mentoring guidelines. Assign one staff member to review the application packet and to call references. Consider having a panel make final decisions on selections.

In DO-IT, mentoring opportunities are communicated by word of mouth through organizations with which DO-IT has connections. This approach helps assure the quality of mentors and the safety of participants. We provide prospective mentors with an application form that includes questions similar to those in the Sample Mentor Application in Chapter Thirteen of this book. For further suggestions on recruiting mentors, consult Recruiting Mentors: A Guide to Finding Volunteers to Work with Youth at www.ppv.org/ppv/publications/assets/28_publication.pdf.

Determine how to recruit protégés.

Decide how best to recruit participants to your program. In DO-IT, information about the DO-IT Scholars and DO-IT Pals programs is regularly distributed to schools, parent groups, and organizations that come in contact with teens who have disabilities. Teenagers submit application materials to join the competitive DO-IT Scholars program. An advisory board selects Scholars by reviewing their applications, teacher recommendations, parent recommendations, and school records. In the DO-IT Pals program, potential participants submit a short online application to doit@u.washington.edu; if they meet the basic criteria, they are included in the electronic community as DO-IT Pals. When individuals are accepted into the DO-IT Scholars and DO-IT Pals programs, their email addresses are added to appropriate distribution lists according to their program memberships and disabilities.

Provide Guidance to Parents.

Photo of DO-IT staff having lunch around a square table.
 

Help parents understand both the benefits and risks of Internet access for their children. Encourage parents of participants to put their Internet-connected computers in high-traffic areas of their homes. If an Internet-connected computer is in the family room or other busy area, children will be less likely to engage in inappropriate activities. They should avoid having a computer with an Internet connection in a child's bedroom; this might be a better place for a computer with educational software, applications software, and games that do not require the Internet.

Encourage parents and guardians to talk to their children about both the benefits and the dangers of the Internet. They should describe scenarios in which a child could be exposed to inappropriate resources or communications. These conversations should be periodic and along the same lines as those about where it is safe for children to ride their bicycles and what to do if a friend wants to play with his dad's gun. They need to be clear about what activities their children are allowed to engage in, what types of Internet resources are and are not appropriate for them, and what they are to do if they encounter materials that they feel uncomfortable with or that they know are unacceptable to their parents. Children should also know what they should do if a friend exposes them to Internet use they know is wrong.

Parents and guardians should tell their children not to give out identifying information (for example, their last name, home address, phone number, or school name) in a chat room, on an email discussion list, or in a message to an individual that they and their children do not both know and trust. Children should never respond to messages that are harassing, threatening, of a sexual nature, or obscene or that make them feel uncomfortable in any way. Protégés should know that mentors may be valuable resources to them but that they need to take responsibility for participating only in conversations and activities that are appropriate and report concerns to parents and the e-mentoring community administrator.

Parents and guardians should be sure their children know to never arrange a face-to-face meeting with people they meet on the Internet, even if they are mentors or other program participants, without parental permission. If a parent approves of a meeting between his or her child and a person met on the Internet, they should accompany the child and arrange to meet in a public place.

Consider supporting an e-community for parents of participants. In DO-IT, we created a discussion list, doitparent@u.washington.edu to facilitate ongoing communication between DO-IT Scholar parents and DO-IT staff.

Establish a system whereby new mentors and protégés are introduced to community members.

The electronic community administrator can send messages to introduce new mentors or protégés to the group and invite new members to send messages about themselves to the group. For example, the administrator of the DO-IT online community might send the following message when a new DO-IT Mentor, Jane Smith, joins the program.


To: doitchat@u.washington.edu
Subject: Please welcome a new mentor

Hello everyone,

I would like all of you to please help me welcome Jane Smith to the DO-IT community. Jane is a new mentor who works for a local computer manufacturing plant. Please take a moment to send an email to Jane and introduce yourself. You can reach her directly at janesmith@mentor.com.

Welcome to the DO-IT community, Jane!

[name]
E-Mentoring Administrator


DO-IT also publishes DO-IT Snapshots and distributes it to all e-community members. This publication includes current bios and email addresses of participants. A version without email addresses can be found at www.washington.edu/doit/Snapshots.

Provide Ongoing Supervision of and Support to Mentors.

Addressing the needs of mentors is key to a successful mentoring community. Most mentors experience some frustration and confusion regarding their roles, especially early on. Access to administrative staff and other mentors can help them get past the rough spots as well as provide ongoing guidance. The mentoring community administrator can model how discussion questions can be submitted to a group. When mentors send good questions to the list, the administrator can send an appreciative email to their individual email addresses.

Photo of student speaking with Mentor.
 

Administrative staff should have regular communication with each mentor to address questions and identify challenges and solutions. These interactions help mentors feel appreciated, maintain a positive attitude, and maximize success in their mentoring roles. The mentoring community administrator should privately encourage individual mentors, near-peers, and protégés to participate when they have not done so in a while.

A discussion list or other electronic forum just for mentors can be used by mentors to support one another. In addition, the electronic community administrator can support the mentors by sending specific resources and guidance to this discussion list periodically, as is done with the messages labeled Mentor Tip in future chapters of this book. For additional ideas regarding the support of mentors, consult the publication Supporting Mentors at www.ppv.org/ppv/publications/assets/31_publication.pdf.

Monitor and manage online discussions.

Photo of two DO-IT Scholars working on laptops in the DO-IT computer lab in between classes.

In a perfect world you could create an electronic distribution list or a web-based forum for protégés and mentors with guidelines for their interactions, and they would automatically communicate with one another appropriately and regularly. This is the essence of how a topical listserv/listproc discussion list typically works. However, in a mentoring community you have more specific goals for the participants than simply to discuss a common interest. Someone needs to be assigned the tasks of monitoring and managing the discussions of the mentoring community and sending discussion questions when needed to promote interactions. There are no formal rules to employ, but the person with that assignment can benefit from using the content in future chapters of this book as a guide.

After providing general guidelines and training to new mentors, introducing them, and encouraging them to send messages introducing themselves, the mentoring community administrator can send one short, engaging message on one topic at a time and allow time for discussion before sending out a message on another topic. The administrator can then monitor conversations and assure a natural flow of communication. Some messages are best sent by a specific mentor or protégé. In this case, the administrator can ask a specific participant to send the message to the group. This approach assures that discussions are dominated by mentors and protégés, not program staff.

Protégés should be encouraged to send messages with a focused subject line and a question related to their current experiences. For example, the administrator could encourage a participant to submit the following question to the group: "I'm applying for a summer job and need to send a résumé and cover letter. I expect I will need disability-related accommodations to succeed in the position available. Should I inform the potential employer of my disability now, wait until I get invited for an interview, or wait until I am offered the job?"

Developing good questions to discuss is essential. This book gives you some great examples, but you will want to develop your own and have your participants do the same. Program staff should view their role as community facilitators, not the central focus. To support a discussion, administrators can do the following:

  • Use questions that are short, focused, open-ended, and of interest to most participants and that solicit a variety of opinions rather than one right answer.
  • Rephrase or provide an example related to a question if participants seem confused.
  • Use subject lines that specify the focus of the discussion, for example, "Disclosing a disability in employment?"Avoid vague subject titles like "Question from a mentor."
  • Submit comments to keep a conversation going, but back off when participants are keeping the discussion lively by themselves.
  • In private email messages, encourage mentors and protégés to submit questions to the group.
  • Promote communications from participants. For example, after someone's contribution you might send a message such as one of the following: "What a great story, John. What did you learn from this experience?" "Sherry, could you share with the group more about how you applied for this scholarship?" "Tell us about what accommodations you're using on your new job." "How did the reaction of that teacher make you feel?" "If you had this to do again, would you take the same action?"
  • Whenever possible, let the participants resolve their own disputes, and reprimand privately those who send inappropriate messages. Rarely is it necessary to send such a message to the whole group.

Share resources

The e-mentoring community administrator or another staff member should search the Internet for useful resources and provide regular messages that point to these resources. There is no guarantee that individuals will make use of content in these electronic lessons, but participants are likely to make use of at least some of the content if it is tailored to the interests of the audience.

DO-IT staff search for and distribute to appropriate lists useful resources on college and career preparation, scholarships, internships, and other appropriate topics for the community. DO-IT has also developed a standard format for lessons to support its academic and career goals for young people in the program. One lesson is sent to the mentoring community each Friday with a standard subject line of "DO-IT Lesson: [lesson title]." For samples of these messages, consult www.washington.edu/doit/Lessons. Permission is granted to distribute the lessons provided at this site to your participants provided the source is acknowledged. These lessons complement the interactive activities included in future chapters of this book.

Employ strategies that promote personal development.

Coordinating mentor-, near-peer-, and protégé-initiated discussions and sending out periodic lessons with useful resources are important activities for supporting an electronic community. Many other mentoring strategies can be modified for online delivery to support young people on their journeys toward successful, self-determined lives. The types of online activities for teens included in this book apply recognized strategies for self-development. Among these are role modeling, affirmations, self-assessment, self-reflection, and visualization.

Publicly share the value and content of communications in the e-mentoring community and the contributions of the mentors.

In DO-IT, we anonymously share content in discussions within the mentoring community in a column called The Thread, which regularly appears in the publication DO-IT News. We also publish Scholar, Ambassador, and Mentor profiles. You can review past issues of DO-IT News at www.washington.edu/doit/Newsletter. Articles about DO-IT participants that have appeared in the press can be found at www.washington.edu/doit/Press.

Monitor the workings of the e-mentoring community as it evolves. Adjust procedures and forms accordingly.

Formally and/or informally survey the mentors and young people in the community to assess their level of satisfaction with its workings and collect their suggestions for improvement. Assess the impact of participation in the e-mentoring community on reaching their academic, career, and independent living goals. Make appropriate adjustments.

Have fun!

Communication between participants in the electronic mentoring community should be enjoyable for everyone. Sharing humor and personal stories should be encouraged.

Chapter Three

Orientation and Training for Mentors


A person's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.

— Oliver Wendell Holmes —


The increased use of mentoring in youth programs can be, at least in part, attributed to the success of this type of intervention, particularly during the adolescent years of great change, risk, and opportunity. Research on traditional one-to-one mentoring has shown that protégés make significant gains in academic achievement and relationships with peers and parents as a result of frequent interactions with volunteer mentors who are primarily expected to provide support and friendship. Mentors help protégés solve problems they are currently facing, as well as avoid potential problems in the future.

Key to forming effective relationships within a mentoring program is the development, over time, of trust between the individuals involved, just as it is in naturally-forming mentoring relationships. Effective mentors:

  • involve youth in deciding how they will spend time together
  • are good listeners
  • give protégés a great deal of control of topics for discussions
  • are understanding and patient
  • make a commitment to being dependable, maintaining a steady presence in the young people's lives
  • recognize that relationships with protégés may be fairly one-sided for some time and may involve periods of unresponsiveness from the protégés
  • take responsibility for keeping relationships with protégés alive
  • pay attention to protégés' needs for fun and understand that enjoyable activities can provide valuable mentoring opportunities
  • respect the viewpoints of youth
  • point out various viewpoints regarding a situation and the people involved, propose various solutions, and facilitate discussions of alternatives
  • offer expressions of confidence and encouragement even when talking about difficult situations
  • find ways to show approval of young people and some of their ideas
  • are sensitive to the different styles of communication of young people
  • seek and utilize the help and advice of the mentoring program staff

Less effective mentors tend to:

  • try to transform or reform young people by setting specific goals early on
  • emphasize behavior changes more than the development of mutual trust and respect
  • do not communicate with protégés on a regular basis
  • demand that youth play an equal role in initiating contact
  • act as authority figures or make judgmental statements about the attitudes of the young people involved
  • attempt to instill a set of values that may be inconsistent with those the young people are exposed to at home
  • preach to participants, telling them the one best solution to their problems
  • ignore the advice of program staff about how to respond to difficulties in the mentoring relationship (Sipe, 1996)

Mentoring is a challenging job. Mentors can benefit from instruction and support in their efforts to build trust and develop positive relationships with young people.

The concept of mentoring is simple; the implementation of a mentoring program is challenging. Successful programs standardize procedures for the screening, orientation, training, and support of participants, including the mentors. Providing young people with mentors without giving sufficient direction to the mentors is unlikely to generate the long-term positive impact you desire.

Administrators of mentoring programs should consider including the following content and activities to train mentors:

  • Provide information about program goals, requirements, staff roles, and other resources.
  • Inform mentors of characteristics of the young people who are in the program.
  • Make sure mentors understand that mentoring takes ongoing time and effort.
  • Encourage mentors to ask questions of the administrator and of other mentors.
  • Help mentors understand the scope and limits of their role as mentors.
  • Help mentors understand that they are responsible for building relationships with participants; focus on establishing a bond with a feeling of attachment, trust, and mutual enjoyment; and that trust building is a gradual process.
  • Build the confidence of mentors, and help them understand the value of their unique contribution to the lives of young people in the program.
  • Inform mentors of how their support can nurture internal qualities that guide choices and create a sense of purpose. For example, Search Institute (Scales & Leffert, 1999) has identified twenty internal assets for young people as characteristics of people on the road to personal, academic, and professional success. These assets are grouped into four categories—commitment to learning, positive values, social competencies, and positive identity—that can be used in training mentors.
  • Introduce mentors to general strategies for positive youth development and support. Help them focus on the overall development of young people and value the diverse backgrounds, experiences, attitudes, and abilities of participants.
  • Help mentors develop the communication skills and attitudes they need to perform well in their roles.
  • Prepare mentors for the frustrations they may encounter and the limitations of their impact on the young participants; help them have realistic expectations.
  • Encourage mentors to find ways to have fun with their protégés as a way to help young people relate to them and feel that they value their company. Enjoyable activities include talking about interesting topics, sharing humorous experiences, pointing to interesting online resources, talking about current events and community service opportunities, sharing challenges in succeeding in college and getting a job, and talking about personal goals.
Photo of DO-IT staff assisting Scholar with a computer problem.

For additional guidance in this area, consult the publication Training New Mentors at www.ppv.org/ppv/publications/assets/30_publication.pdf.

Since many of the DO-IT Mentors are not local to the DO-IT Center in Seattle, orientation and training occurs online. When applicants are accepted as Mentors, they are sent a series of orientation email messages designed to introduce them to mentoring goals and strategies and to the workings of the DO-IT electronic community. We include in the training specific rules and procedures of the program; responsibilities and expectations for mentors; the background, characteristics, and needs of the young people involved; relationship skills; email communication skills; and typical challenges mentors encounter. DO-IT Mentors are encouraged to read Building Relationships: A Guide for New Mentors at www.ppv.org/ppv/publications/assets/29_publication.pdf.

As you begin to develop your own mentor orientation and training program, you may wish to use some of the following messages whose titles begin with Mentor Tip. They can be sent to an individual new mentor or to a discussion list or web-based forum for mentors to help them develop strategies for working with protégés. They are designed to provide guidelines to mentors before their full participation in the online community with protégés. Note that some of this content is published in Taking Charge: Stories of Success and Self-Determination (Burgstahler, 2006c).

Mentor Tip: Orientation

Send this message to the mentors only.


Subject: Mentoring orientation

Welcome to the [program name] program. I am the administrator of our electronic mentoring community. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me at [email address].

To help you transition into your new mentoring position, read the publication titled Opening Doors: Mentoring on the Internet at www.washington.edu/doit/Video/opendr.html. If your computer has the capability, also view the video at the same location.

[name of e-mentoring administrator]

Mentor Tip: Discussion Lists/Forums

Send this message to the mentors only.


Subject: Mentoring discussion [lists/forums]

As a mentor you are encouraged to communicate with both mentors and teenage participants (protégés) in our mentoring community. I will post some messages to stimulate discussion, but both mentors and protégés are encouraged to share resources and pose questions of interest to the group.

The electronic community is composed of several [discussion lists/forums], each with a specific audience.

  • To communicate with fellow mentors only, send a message to [list/forum address].
  • To communicate with the entire community of mentors and protégés, send a message to [list/forum address].

I hope you enjoy your experience as a mentor. If you have any questions about being a mentor, how the discussion [lists/forums] work, or other issues or concerns, please contact me at [email address].

[e-mentoring administrator name]

Mentor Tip: Mentoring Guidelines

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Subject: Mentoring guidelines

Here are a few guidelines to follow as you begin mentoring the teens in our program.

  • Periodically introduce yourself to the group. Share your personal interests, hobbies, academic interests, and career path.
  • Read messages and communicate with other mentors and/or protégés at least once per week (time commitment: up to about one hour).
  • Engage protégés in conversations. Set the tone and model appropriate interactions.
  • Get to know the protégés. What are their personal interests? academic interests? career interests?
  • Explore interests with protégés by asking questions, promoting discussion, and pointing to Internet and other resources.
  • Facilitate contact between protégés and resources (professors, professionals, service providers, etc.).
  • Remember that developing meaningful relationships takes time. Give yourself and the protégés time to get to know one another.
  • Encourage protégés to set and reach high goals in education and employment.
  • Maintain appropriate, clear boundaries with protégés.
  • Never arrange to meet a protégé in person without the approval of program staff and parents. If such a meeting is desired, please share your interest with me at [email address].
  • Tell me of any inappropriate email you receive from protégés or mentors and/or inappropriate activities protégés or mentors are involved in.

Mentor Tip: Communication of Emotions

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Subject: Mentoring tips on communication of emotions

There are many advantages to mentoring via the Internet. Electronic messages can eliminate the barriers imposed by time, distance, and disability that can occur in face-to-face mentoring. However, electronic messages do not include the nonverbal cues people rely upon to communicate effectively. Nonverbal cues include facial expressions, eye contact, intonation, posture, and gestures. Without these cues we can fail to properly interpret the feelings and subtle meanings behind words that are spoken. The intended message in electronic correspondence can be misinterpreted by the person reading the message.

In order to make sure the meaning behind the words in your messages is clear, consider these tips:

  • Start a message with a friendly greeting ("Hello," "Hi," "Dear [name]," etc.).
  • Place "(grin)" at the end of a sentence to tell recipients that your comment is meant to be humorous. Similarly, insert appropriate "emoticons" to take the place of facial expressions or gestures. You can find many collections of emoticons by searching for "emoticons" on the Web, however, it's best to use text-based content rather than graphic images so that participants who are blind can access the content with their text-to-speech systems.
  • Rarely use all capital letters in a message. Capitalizing all letters in one word infers strong emphasis, but capitalizing all letters in an entire message is like yelling at someone in person.

Mentor Tip: Positive Reinforcement

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Subject: Mentoring tips on positive reinforcement

Find ways to have fun with protégés and your fellow mentors. Talk about interesting topics. Share humorous experiences. Such communications help young people relate to you and feel that you value their company. Enjoyable online activities include talking about your experiences in college and employment, interesting online resources, current events and community service opportunities, and your personal goals.

Be positive and offer expressions of confidence and encouragement even when talking about difficult situations. Find ways to show approval of our young participants and their ideas and to celebrate their successes. There are many ways to do this. Here are examples of positive comments that show approval and interest.

  • Great idea.
  • Right on! Fantastic! Terrific!
  • Great job.
  • Exactly right!
  • Nice going.
  • Good work.
  • Outstanding!
  • Great! Way to go!
  • Perfect.
  • Excellent!
  • I bet you're happy about that.
  • I can tell how pleased you are about this.
  • I knew you could do it.
  • Wow! All your hard work paid off.
  • I bet you'll celebrate this accomplishment.
  • I know exactly what you mean.
  • I feel the same way at times.
  • Keep trying—you'll get it.
  • I'd like to hear more about your thoughts on this.
  • What do you recommend to other teens who wish to accomplish something like this?
  • How can you build on this successful experience?

Mentor Tip: Listening Skills

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Subject: Mentoring tips on listening skills

Careful "listening" is an important skill for a mentor. When you read a protégé's message, try to interpret both the meaning and the potential emotion attached to the content. Sometimes it is appropriate to let the protégé know that you are aware of strong emotions that he seems to be expressing.

Empathy lets the protégé know you not only understand the words used but also are sensitive to the feeling expressed. Statements like "You sound really discouraged" can let the protégé know that you care about more than the factual content of his message, that you care about how he feels.

When participants in our electronic community convey to one another that they hear both the content of what was said and the feelings that were expressed, close relationships with high levels of trust develop.

When communicating with protégés, it is important to

  • read through a protégé's entire message carefully and ask questions about anything you don't understand, before composing your reply.
  • be clear and specific in your questions, requests, and answers.
  • ask open-ended questions rather than questions that can be answered with a "yes" or "no."
  • understand that a protégé's view of the world may be different from your own and remember that everyone is entitled to his/her opinions and beliefs.
  • provide guidance that is supportive and positive.
  • avoid lecturing or passing judgment.
  • guide protégés through a problem-solving process rather than state a solution to a problem for them.

Mentor Tip: Questions for Protégés

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Subject: Mentoring tips on turning questions back

Sometimes an effective way to encourage communication and reflection is a question to the protégé. For example, you might ask:

  • What do you think?
  • Can you tell me how to do that?
  • What choices do you have?
  • How did you do that?
  • Who helped you make that decision?
  • Do you have any role models (teachers, family members, friends, historical figures, etc.) who have handled this type of situation in a positive way?
  • Are you happy with how things turned out?
  • What would you do differently if you were presented with the situation again?

Mentor Tip: Disabilities

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Subject: Mentoring tips on disabilities

Do not ask participants about their disabilities unless they choose to disclose their specific disabilities to you. If they choose to share this information with you, encourage them to describe their disabilities in functional terms and share strategies and accommodations that help them succeed. Such practice is important since the ability for them to describe their disabilities and request accommodations is critical for their success in college and careers.

If you would like to know more about different types of disabilities and typical accommodations students with disabilities receive in educational settings, link to The Faculty Room from www.washington.edu/doit. This extensive resource is specifically designed for postsecondary faculty and, therefore, is most relevant to the college environment. For examples of accommodations for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, link to AccessSTEM from www.washington.edu/doit.

For further exploration of disabilities, consult the publication Disability-Related Resources on the Internet at www.washington.edu/doit/Brochures/DRR.

A glossary of disability-related terms can be found at www.washington.edu/doit/Brochures/Programs/glossary.html.

Mentor Tip: Guiding Teens

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Subject: Mentoring tips on guiding teens

Reflecting on the following questions can guide you in helping young people with disabilities create definitions of success for themselves and begin to develop strategies for achieving success.

  • How is your definition of success similar to or different from the definitions of young people you are mentoring? How do these differences impact your relationships?
  • How do you model your own definition of success yet support a young person in defining success for himself/herself?
  • What's the best advice or guidance you have ever given regarding success? What made it the best?
  • Think of a time when you wished you had given different advice or guidance. What could you have said or done differently?
  • How can you help teens take incremental steps toward leading a successful, self-determined life?

Mentor Tip: Conversation Starters

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Subject: Mentoring tips on conversation starters

A challenge faced by any electronic mentoring community is getting conversations started. As a mentor you have the responsibility to engage protégés in conversations that promote growth and build trust. Here are a few discussion ideas to get you started.

  • Introduce yourself and ask protégés about themselves.
  • Talk about your hobbies, favorite movies, books, music, family, community where you live, etc.
  • Ask protégés about their hobbies, favorite books, music, family, school, academic and career plans, etc.
  • Talk about your education (favorite classes, teachers, school).
  • Talk about your first job.
  • Talk about how you secured your current job. What specialized training have you had?
  • Talk about how to locate an internship or job opportunity.
  • Offer to help protégés develop or improve their résumés.
  • Talk about interviewing techniques, such as dressing for success, answering specific questions, and disclosing disabilities.
  • Talk about disability-related accommodations in school or on the job.
  • Offer to help protégés locate summer employment or make career contacts.
  • Talk about balancing school, work, and social life.
  • Share websites you think protégés might find useful or interesting.

Mentor Tip:"Dos" when Mentoring Teens

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Subject: Tips on"dos" when mentoring teens

Since becoming self-determined is a lifelong process, you can be a co-learner as you help young people develop self-determination skills. Successful individuals with disabilities offered the following advice as part of an electronic mentoring community discussion.

  • Allow them to reach for their dreams, regardless of how impossible it may seem. Encourage them when the going gets rough, let them work at it themselves to achieve their dreams, and be there to say, "Job well done!" when they make it! I thank God daily for those teachers, my family, and friends who didn't give up on me or my goals. They made my success possible!! (college student who is deaf)
  • Help a disabled student accept the fact that they are disabled. Some disabled students do not want to admit their disability. Some blind students, for example, don't want to use a cane because they fear that people might look at them differently. Every child wants to be like everyone else. I remember when I was declared legally blind I didn't have the self-esteem to admit that I was blind. I didn't want to use the adaptive materials that my vision teacher provided. My grades started to slip, and I didn't feel good at all. The day that I got over the self-esteem issue was the day that I could see that adaptive materials could actually help me out in the classroom. (college student who is blind)
  • Allow young people to keep their door of opportunity open, and remind them that the door will always be open as long as they allow it to be open. (college student who had a stroke)
  • Caring adults can impact and shape the self-esteem of a kid, especially one who is disabled. When a kid is supported by someone outside of the their family, they feel special and valued. This"mentor" can let the child know that they believe in them. A belief is one step on the road to success. (high school student with dyslexia and attention deficit disorder)
  • Give children with disabilities responsibilities at a young age, similar to those given to other children. (college student who is blind)
  • Everyone should always try to reach their full potential, and they should expect nothing more and nothing less. (college student with low vision)
  • If a student is having a difficult time in one academic area, gently point out to him/her what his/her strengths are, what he/she is better at. (college student who had a stroke)
  • Instill self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-advocacy at a very young age. Allow children to learn how to be independent so that they don't have to learn how to do it when they become adults. I think when parents do everything for their children it hinders their ability to develop and be able to make their own judgments. Instill information into children that will allow them to make good judgments. (graduate student with a hearing impairment)
  • Parents, teachers, and society need to come to understand that disabilities are merely factors of life, not life itself. Parents of disabled children should reinforce, from the time their children are young, that disabilities are circumventable. They must help their children accept their disabilities and then encourage them to lead their lives to the utmost normalcy. As for teachers, they must come to understand that disabled children are, in most instances, capable of achieving the same levels of academic success as any other child. Teachers must come to see disabilities as superficial qualities but simultaneously realize that disabled children may need some special accommodations. Last, society must be educated as to the capabilities of disabled individuals. While there have been vast shifts in societal thought concerning the abilities of the disabled, too many individuals still hold outdated and ignorant views about people with disabilities. It is not enough that laws exist to protect the interests of the disabled. Society must learn to take those laws to heart to ensure that all children, disabled or not, are able to form and maintain high expectations for themselves. The change will be gradual but well worth it! (adult who is blind)
  • Teach your child about right and wrong. Encourage him to stand up for what is right. (college student with a mobility impairment)
  • What really helps kids with disabilities is being treated just like everyone else. If they get special treatment, then they will expect to be treated like that all their lives. (high school student with speech, hearing, and mobility impairments)

Keep these words of wisdom in mind as you mentor protégés.

Mentor Tip: "Don'ts" when Mentoring Teens

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Subject: Tips on "don'ts" when mentoring teens

Successful individuals with disabilities offered the following advice as part of an electronic mentoring community discussion.

  • Don't disregard their beliefs or feelings. Be supportive of kids' beliefs. (college student with mobility and health impairments)
  • Don't let children sit and feel sorry for themselves. Find activities of interest that they are able to take part in. Find community partners to take them places if they are unable to go on their own. (college student with cerebral palsy)
  • Don't polarize disabilities and abilities. They are not two ends of a spectrum. For example, my deafness gives me access to sign language and typing skills that I might never have learned if I had not gone deaf. So in many ways the disability (if you call it that) is an ability. At the same time, my physical disability gave me an opportunity to do dance. Something I NEVER did as a nondisabled person. It's as important to identify parts of life as a disabled person that give us skills as identifying other abilities/disabilities. (adult who is deaf and has a mobility impairment)

Chapter Four

Introduction to Mentoring for Success and Self-Determination


Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don't walk behind me, I may not lead.
Just walk beside me and be my friend.

— Albert Camus —


A primary goal of the DO-IT electronic mentoring community is to support the participants in their transitions to successful, self-determined adult lives. In this context, being successful does not mean that you are successful in all that you do but rather that you are satisfied with your overall progress toward the goals you have established for yourself. Everyone experiences success; everyone experiences setbacks and even failure. In this chapter, mentors and protégés begin to explore the topics of success and self-determination.

The multifaceted topic of success can be approached in a variety of ways. Some professionals have looked at characteristics that successful adults have in common. For example, positive attitude has been found to be a common characteristic of successful adults. As shared by a college student who is blind:

I have a positive attitude about my future because I believe in myself. I lost my vision over one summer when I was entering the eighth grade. I had to adjust to doing everything without seeing. I overcame my fear and excelled socially and academically. I passed a specialized high school exam and was accepted to the Bronx H.S. of Science. However, in the beginning of my sophomore year my parents decided to get a divorce. This threw me for a loop and I was depressed for a while. But then I realized that depression was not going to help me if I wanted to continue toward my goals. So I dealt with my anger and disappointment. Looking back, it still hurts but I have a better outlook on life because of it. Through my inner strength I overcame these hurdles and looked forward to college. People are stronger than we give them credit for. People with a disability are no different.

A sense of purpose has also been found to promote success (Scales & Leffert, 1999). The belief that your life is part of something larger and more enduring than daily struggles can provide the motivation to persevere when life presents challenges. It has also been found that people who do well in life have a clear sense of self-worth and a high tolerance for distress. Successful people tend to be optimistic; they have positive beliefs about the world and they think things will work out for the best, despite setbacks (Janoff-Bulman, 1992).

Successful people know they can control some aspects of their environment by their actions. They also tend to be expressive about the difficulties they face in everyday life. They are able to talk about their problems and place them in a perspective that is not overwhelming.

The overall sense of well-being was explored by Abraham Maslow (1950, 1968, 1970) in his work on self-actualization. His model rests on the belief that success in life is not a set of isolated characteristics but an integrated process. Maslow stressed that no one ever reaches perfection in all areas but that the process of working on key characteristics is the most important task people face on their road to a satisfying quality of life. These characteristics include:

  • becoming fully functional as a mature individual (self-identity, self-realization, self-direction)
  • being responsible for one's own behaviors and attitudes
  • realizing one's own unique potential as a human being
  • having a strongly developed sense of integrity based on defined personal values
  • showing personal creativity
  • being challenged rather than defeated by new events or information in daily life
  • having a sense of humor
  • having high levels of motivation and persistence

By following the online activities found in this book, mentors can help teens explore how others have defined success and develop their own definitions of success. After completing these activities, participants will be able to:

  • describe what success and self-determination mean to them
  • state how success can be found in personal, social, spiritual, academic, and employment areas of life
  • describe how successful people set goals and work toward them, take risks, and learn from both their successes and their failures
  • understand how learning to take responsibility for their lives is a gradual process
  • describe strategies that address challenges imposed by disabilities
  • describe how they can deal with awkward situations in a positive way
  • explain how a positive attitude can influence success
  • explain how benefits can be derived from challenges they face

Participants will be able to list some of the common characteristics of successful people, including:

  • a sense of purpose and self-worth
  • a desire to succeed
  • a positive attitude
  • self-confidence
  • ambition
  • determination
  • motivation
  • persistence
  • self-discipline
  • courage
  • a sense of humor
  • a willingness to take risks

In several of the E-Community Activities in this chapter, mentors and protégés are asked to view the video about Todd, Jessie, and Randy, Taking Charge 1: Three Stories of Success and Self Determination (www.washington.edu/doit/Video/taking_charge.html). Randy, Jessie, and Todd have met and continue to meet the challenges in life that we all face—succeeding in school, making friends, finding and succeeding in a career. They have had to adjust their goals and strategies to address unique challenges related to their disabilities. Todd, Randy, and Jessie view their disabilities as part of who they are but not the characteristic that fully defines them any more than their gender, age, or height defines them. They do not see themselves as victims. When faced with a challenge, they ask questions such as the following:

  • How can I tackle this problem in another way so that I can succeed?
  • What do I need to do to see past these barriers and take control of my own future?
  • What resources are available to me?
  • What other strategies might I try?
Photo of DO-IT Scholar in wheelchair typing on a computer in his lap.

Randy, Todd, and Jessie all lead successful lives, but their success does not come without hard work, setbacks, and adjustments. In addition to powerful role models of young people who are determined to overcome challenges, these stories can provide a framework for opening discussions between mentors and protégés on issues of disability, success, and self-determination. A second video in the Taking Charge series tells two stories of teens moving down their paths toward self-determined lives. A third video, Taking Charge 3, combines all five stories into a one-half hour program suitable for public television. They can be purchased from DO-IT or freely viewed online at www.washington.edu/doit/Video.

The e-mentoring administrator can select appropriate messages from the following examples and send those titles labeled Mentor Tips to the mentors only and those labeled E-Community Activity to the entire online community of mentors and protégés. These messages introduce protégés and mentors to the mentoring community and present general topics regarding success and self-determination. Use these examples to stimulate other ideas for online discussions. It is desirable that, ultimately, most discussion topics come from the mentors and protégés themselves. Note that some of the content of these messages is published in Taking Charge: Stories of Success and Self-Determination (Burgstahler, 2006c).

E-Community Activity: Welcome to Online Mentoring

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Welcome to online mentoring

Welcome to the [program name] program. On the [list/forum address] participants in the [program name] and adult mentors will communicate on a wide range of topics—college, careers, recreation—in order to promote the success of participants(called "protégés"), share resources, and just have fun.

Our mentoring community is about taking charge of your life. Our goal is for you to have an internal sense of control, that is, for you to be active in determining aspects of your life. Rather than feeling dependent, you will learn strategies that will help you take charge. An important part of being self-determined is seeking and valuing help from others, including the peers and mentors in our online community.

I am the administrator of our electronic mentoring community. If you have any questions or concerns, contact me at [email address].

[name of e-mentoring administrator]

E-Community Activity: Guidelines for Protégés

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Guidelines for protégés

Here are a few guidelines to follow as you participate in our online mentoring community.

  • Log on to your email account [or into the electronic forum] at least once each week, and read and respond to messages.
  • Regularly communicate with mentors and other participants.
  • Notify me of any changes to your email address or other personal information.
  • Keep paragraphs in your messages short, and separate paragraphs with blank spaces.
  • Avoid covering several topics in one message. It's better to send several messages so that recipients can respond to each topic separately.
  • Use mixed upper and lower case letters, and capitalize letters in a word for emphasis. Using all capital letters is like SHOUTING.
  • It's friendly to begin a message with the name of the person to whom you are corresponding and to end the message with your name.
  • Do not use words others might find offensive. Avoid personal attacks. Don't engage in name-calling.
  • Do not participate in conversations that would be unacceptable to your parents and/or program staff.
  • Do not engage in conversations that you are not comfortable with. Immediately report offensive or troubling messages that you receive to me and a parent or guardian.
  • Remember that electronic correspondence is easy for recipients to forward to others and, therefore, is not appropriate for very personal messages. Email is more like a postcard than a sealed letter.
  • Spell check and carefully review a message BEFORE you send it.

[name of e-mentoring administrator]

E-Community Activity: Safety on the Internet

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Safety on the Internet

The Internet is a great place for learning and interaction. However, some content is not appropriate for you, and some Internet users are not safe for you to interact with. The following are a few rules for you and your parents or guardians to consider while you engage in email and other activities on the Internet.

  • I will not give out personal information such as my address, telephone number, parents' work address/telephone number, or the name and location of my school without the permission of a parent or guardian.
  • I will tell you and a parent or guardian right away if I come across information that makes me feel uncomfortable.
  • I will never agree to get together with someone I "meet" online without first checking with a parent or guardian. If a parent or guardian agrees to the meeting, I will be sure that it is in a public place and arrange for a parent or guardian to come along.
  • I will never send a person my picture or anything else without the approval of a parent or guardian.
  • I will not respond to any messages that are mean or in any way make me feel uncomfortable. It is not my fault if I get a message like that. If I do, I will tell you and a parent or guardian but NOT the person who sent the message.
  • I will talk with a parent or guardian so that we can set up rules for going online. We will decide on the time of day I can be online, the length of time I can be online, and appropriate areas for me to visit. I will not access other areas or break these rules without their permission.

[name of e-mentoring administrator]

E-Community Activity: Jessie and Learning Strategies

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Subject: Jessie and learning strategies

If your computer has the capability, view the video Taking Charge 1: Three Stories of Success and Self-Determination at www.washington.edu/doit/Video/taking_charge.html. You can also read the following story about Jessie, who is featured in the video. Then tell our group something about Jessie's story that is similar to your life experiences. . You can also read the following story about Jessie, who is featured in the video. Then tell our group something about Jessie's story that is similar to your life experiences.

Jessie first became aware of her learning disability in the second grade. She said: "Everyone in my class was reading and I wasn't. When my mom approached the teacher, the teacher minimized the problem, saying I was just a 'late bloomer.' Even in third grade I still couldn't read. They kept telling my mom, 'Don't worry, don't worry.'"

Jessie struggled in every grade as she progressed through school. "When I was in the fourth grade, I was in a first grade reading level. And my writing skills were just nonexistent... Science reading is really dense and so I get completely and totally lost in it. Even in math classes I do dyslexic-like errors like dropping negative signs. It gets me all mixed up. There's no area in which I am free of it. It's a part of me."

But Jessie was determined to be "academically independent." With support from her mother and a tutor, Jessie figured out how to tap into her own resourcefulness to reach self-defined goals. "Ever since I was in third grade, whatever they were doing, I didn't get it. I got really frustrated. I was always behind. So my mom would help me by finding different ways to do the work. Now that I'm in high school, I'm finding my own way, developing my own methods. I learned how to study. Like, for example I would create whole tests of the subject material and just quiz myself, and quiz myself and quiz myself. And, you know, it works. I've gotten A's from doing that."

Jessie also listens to taped versions of her textbooks. She has a speech output system on her computer to read to her all text that appears on the screen. Another computer program allows her to talk into the computer rather than type on the keyboard. She dictates her work to the computer and then uses a standard word processor to edit it into final form. Having note takers in class to alleviate her difficulties with both handwriting and processing teacher lecture material is another strategy that helps Jessie focus on her strengths instead of her deficits. Every day she better understands her learning style and as a result is able to figure out alternative strategies to tackle her assignments. Jessie also seeks out activities that don't require accommodations for her learning disability. These include ballet and running.

Jessie confesses that she fears failure. But she also admits, "I've learned that I'll fail if I don't even try." Jessie's tutor describes a learning disability as a "hill." It's as though Jessie is an avid skier but, instead of using a chairlift like everyone else, she must continually climb the hill in order to ski back down with her peers. Jessie reports, "She and my mom always reminded me of this example and told me, 'You're smart, Jessie, smarter than a lot of these kids. You just have to struggle and work hard sometimes, but you're finding a different way.' They would tell me about people who overcame their disabilities and were successful, so I never felt like I was dumb.... Finding new methods was part of the climb up the mountain. My mom would turn out the lights and quiz me orally on my spelling. It was weird. Sometimes I could do it and sometimes not—it was a mystery."

Jessie describes her relationship with her tutor as special. Unlike her friends, the tutor understands the immense effort it takes Jessie to achieve what seems to come easily to others. According to Jessie, "When I was younger, I didn't mention my disability, because I was ashamed of it. My mom and sister are exactly opposite from me. They never have to study; everything comes easy to them. I have friends like that too. They don't seem to have to work at all, so they can't understand what I have to go through."

On the other hand, Jessie acknowledges that because of her disability she has learned to be resourceful and adaptable. "I see things in a different way. I know how to work hard. I'm determined.... not being able to attack a problem one way has forced me to learn new skills.... If you do work hard, you will get a payoff. It will be worth it.

What about Jessie's experience can apply in your life?

E-Community Activity: Jessie and Disability Benefits

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Jessie and disability benefits

Jessie has found benefits in the struggles she has faced because of her learning disability. Specifically, she says, "I see things in a different way. I know how to work hard. I'm determined. Not being able to attack a problem one way has forced me to learn new skills that I may not have learned [if I didn't have a disability]."

Think of something that you consider to be primarily a disadvantage in your life—for example, where you live, your family dynamics, a disability, your appearance, your physical capabilities. How can you derive benefits from this situation?

E-Community Activity: Randy and Proving Yourself

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Subject: Randy and proving yourself

Read the following story about Randy, and/or view the video presentation Taking Charge 1: Three Stories of Success and Self-Determination at www.washington.edu/doit/Video/taking_charge.html. Then tell our group how Randy's experiences are similar to or different from yours.

Randy does not let the jolts of life get him down. He sees the positive in people and the potential in tough situations. Blind since birth, he views obstacles as healthy challenges that provide opportunities to be creative. He sees prejudice and stereotyping as opportunities to educate. Life may be a hassle at times—frustrating, annoying, even frightening—but to Randy it is nothing less than a grand experience.

Born in the Grand Coulee Dam area of Washington State and raised in Alaska and Seattle, Randy went to a public preschool, where, at age three, he began to learn Braille. He attended general education classes throughout his schooling.

In high school he gained access to a laptop computer with speech output software, a speech synthesizer, Braille translation software, a Braille embosser (to produce Braille output), a standard printer for producing printed output for teachers and other sighted people, and the Internet. Using this technology, he read a newspaper independently for the first time in his life. His computer system allowed him to access information and compose papers without the assistance of a sighted person. He attended The Evergreen State College and graduated in a computer field. Randy says his "biggest challenge today is dealing with the ever-growing amount of graphics presented on the World Wide Web and software applications." When software designers use text alternatives to information presented in graphics, he works independently; otherwise, he needs a sighted person to help him.

Though Randy struggled socially in school, his greatest challenges came from teachers, not peers: "You've got to prove that you can do the same stuff as the others, show the teachers that you are able to work in their class successfully. This was my biggest challenge, not from the students. To them, you're just another kid." Randy felt that he had to constantly "prove" his worth—not in relation to performing a specific task but simply because he couldn't see. Randy realized he was going to have to work very hard to find the right kind of job for himself and, even then, likely have to fight to get beyond the stereotypes: "I still have to prove to them that I can do the job."

After graduating with a degree in computer science and networking, Randy secured a job as a help-desk analyst, handling technical computer questions from customers around the United States. Randy credits his parents as the primary motivators in his life: "If I came home with a grade that was lower than expected, I would hear about it. I was expected to get that grade up. And if it didn't go up, well, there were consequences. I was treated like everybody else. That instilled in me a drive to succeed."

They also encouraged him to be independent, to make his own choices and then to learn from the consequences of his choices. "My parents' main goal was to make me as much like any other kid as possible. I did social things with other kids. When I was in high school, I had a lot of the same problems with my parents that a lot of kids have, like 'I want to go out.' 'Well, you can't go out.' Not we don't want you to go out because you have this disability, but because you're supposed to do this work. But at other times, they would say, 'Hey, go out with your friends. Do stuff socially.' They were very open to that. And because I was mainstreamed all through school, I was used to having social interaction with other people."

E-Community Activity: Randy and Taking On Challenges

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Subject: Randy and taking on challenges

Read the following story about Randy and/or view the video presentation Taking Charge 1: Three Stories of Success and Self-Determination at www.washington.edu/doit/Video/taking_charge.html. Then tell about a challenge that you have taken on.

Randy, who is blind, has an uncanny knack for not allowing the "unknowns" to get in his way. When he encounters a difficult situation, he asks questions. He uses creative thinking to circumvent challenges without allowing the challenges to become overwhelming or discouraging. He sees every challenge as an opportunity to be inventive. Randy tells how whenever he travels to a new location, he studies the layout of the community to figure out the best routes to the places where he needs to go.

Randy found courage in the pockets of his own positive spirit. When he was seventeen years old he ventured alone to California to get his guide dog, Mogul. "I had been away from my parents before, like any normal kid. I've gone to camp and stuff like that. But this was my first flight on my own, and I was going to meet people I had never met before. I would be staying at this place for a month and had no idea where it was or what it was. So it was fairly daunting. I had never done plane travel on my own. So, I had to say to myself, 'Well, eventually things are going to work out.' A lot of the time that's how I work. I say, 'We may not be able to plan this out completely, but it'll work out somehow.' There's always something that will come up. Some sort of gift of fortune that will make things work."

Denise and Randy met in high school and were married at age 21. Both say that Randy's disability was not an issue in their dating or in their decision to get married. Denise relays that though they went to the same middle school too, they didn't meet until later. She said, "I was really shy and didn't talk much. If I don't talk, then Randy doesn't know I exist, because I'm not visible. My interactions with Randy were limited to going down crowded halls of the school and running into him and getting knocked over. But during our junior year, half our classes were together. And we just started dating."

Randy handles awkward situations with class. He describes an episode he had in a restaurant. Though he was a regular customer, there was a new employee at the counter who did not know him and told him he could not come in with his guide dog. "There were three ways I could have handled it. I could have walked out, which I didn't want to do because I really like the food. I could have blown up at her and then maybe got kicked out for disturbing the peace. Or I could do what I did, which was to be calm and explain that Mogul is a guide dog and by law allowed to come in. I usually carry cards that have information and a phone number for people who want to know more. But I find staying calm works with most people."

After describing his resilient nature, Randy is quick to tell others to never give up. What is an example of how you have been successful in doing something that was difficult or new for you?

E-Community Activity: Advice from Randy

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Subject: Advice from Randy

When asked if he had advice for young people with disabilities, Randy, who is blind, had plenty to offer. With a quick smile, he replied, "Quite a bit, actually." Here are some of his helpful hints.

  • First of all, don't use the disability as a crutch. Don't walk through life and expect people to take care of you because of the disability. Don't make excuses for yourself because of the disability. I've done it before, and it's a one-man pity party. Go out; drive for what you want; don't let the disability get in the way. But if it does, then just jump the hurdle; find a way to get around it.
  • I would also say, don't go into a shell. A lot of disabled people will kind of stand back and let life flow by them. They don't interact with people. A lot of them have fairly poor social skills because of it, and that's really sad to see. If these people could go out and interact with other people, that might make their life better.
  • My biggest piece of advice is definitely to drive for what you want. And if it's strong enough in your mind and if you want it bad enough, then get it.
  • If something happens and you fail, the only thing that you can do is say, "OK, fine, that's not going to work, try it a different way, or go at it again." There are always times that you're going to break down and say "Hey, I can't go on like this." But you go to sleep that night, you wake up the next morning, and you have a different outlook on life... Maybe it's hard, but you do it anyway, and you just keep going at life.
  • Get help when you need it. There are a lot of disabled people out there [who] get fanatical about not letting anybody help them. I'm sorry, but I look at that as kind of stupid because people without disabilities need help sometimes, too,... Go in and ask for that help.
  • For parents, I would definitely say, "Let your kid with a disability be a kid. Don't shelter them, don't keep anything back. Let them live their life." Treat them like you would your nondisabled child. And don't let them look at the disability as a crutch. Don't let them do that. Trust me.

What advice for success would you add to Randy's list?

E-Community Activity: Todd and an Awkward Moment

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Subject: Todd and an awkward moment

Read the following story about Todd, and/or view the video Taking Charge 1: Three Stories of Success and Self-Determination at www.washington.edu/doit/Video/taking_charge.html. Then tell the group how you have handled an awkward situation.

As young Todd faced his prospective employer that chilly day in November, he thought about the events and circumstances that led to this moment. When he graduated with an A.A. degree in computer programming, Todd networked with family, friends, and school contacts to find leads to a job. When these attempts proved fruitless, he sent his resume to all the employers he could find who were advertising for Visual BASIC computer programmers. Eventually, he was called for an interview. Todd chose not to include in his cover letter the fact that he used a wheelchair.

Todd arrived for the interview at the appointed time and had his personal attendant knock on the office door. The large man who answered the door gazed at Todd and asked, "May I help you?" Todd replied, "I'm here for the job interview." The man paused a moment, and then he invited Todd into his office, awkwardly rearranging the furniture to accommodate Todd's wheelchair. The man's first question to Todd was "How did you become disabled?" Although Todd knew that this was not an appropriate question for an employer to ask, he chose to answer it. Eventually, he asked, "How do you use a computer?" By the end of the interview, they were discussing Todd's skills and credentials, not his disability. Todd was offered the position before he left. At eighteen years old, Todd had just landed his first job.

Now Todd lives in his own apartment across the street from his employer and 45 miles from his parents. He works full-time as a computer programmer. He has good friends and an active social life. Though this may seem standard for the average college graduate, these achievements take on a different dimension for a young man who is completely paralyzed below his shoulders.

E-Community Activity: Todd, Family, and Friends

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Subject: Todd, family and friends

Read the following story about Todd, and or view the video Taking Charge 1: Three Stories of Success and Self-Determination at www.washington.edu/doit/Video/taking_charge.html. You'll see how Todd's family members and friends have encouraged him to set high goals, work hard, make decisions, and learn from experiences. Tell the group what expectations your family and/or friends have for you.

Todd has not let anyone inhibit his dreams. Nor has he let his disability dictate his goals. He is in charge of his life and is making his own decisions. His disability requires that he modify the way some things get done and allow more time for certain activities, but it hasn't required that he abandon his dreams or release control of his life.

Todd credits much of his success to the supportive yet demanding environment in which he was raised. Todd grew up in a small town where everyone knew him and his family. His father died in a motorcycle accident when he was four. Losing his father made him an angry and difficult boy. "I just went downhill after that. I was so mad and angry inside. I got into a lot of fights and I swore all the time. I was a real bad kid."

A gun accident left Todd with a spinal cord injury when he was eight. From that day he has felt nothing below his shoulders and has used a ventilator to help him breathe at night. On the day he came home after almost a year in the hospital, Todd recalls: "I wasn't even home 30 minutes when my mother and I got into a big fight, screaming and yelling at each other. My grandma came over and she got all upset that we were upset like a chain reaction. My sister came home and she got yelled at. Then we all just sat there and cried."

Life was difficult, but Todd's mother held the family together. She supported them on what she earned from running a beauty salon. Todd credits his mother with teaching him self-determination. He never questioned his mother's conviction that he would grow up, get a job, move out, and lead a typical American life. "My mother instilled in me from day one that there was no room for failure.

There was no pity in our home. My mother always told me, 'When you're 18, you're out of here.' I never thought once that I'd have a problem finding a place to live or finding work. It never hit me once that I'd have a problem in society. I always knew I would work someday. I knew I had to make a lot of money, because it's expensive to be disabled."

Most people with severe disabilities are unemployed. Todd commends his mother, his faith in God, and the force of his own personality as factors in his successful transition to employment. Access to specialized technology has played a key role in his success as well. Since he cannot type on a standard keyboard, he uses special software to present a keyboard image on the screen. Then he selects letters with a pointing device operated with his mouth.

When Todd was asked why he has succeeded when many individuals with significant disabilities have not, Todd replied, "I keep thinking it's your attitude [and] personality. If it's in your mind that you're going to go for it, you will go for it. I just think it all has to come back to attitude. When you have [a good] attitude, doors open for you. Being disabled and using your disability for good, you have a lot more opportunities than other people—really good opportunities. If you take them, some really neat things can happen in your life."

Todd sees his career in programming as just the beginning for him—an early step in his ongoing journey."There are many, many things I would like to do, like public speaking, teaching. I'd really love to be in radio. I love music. Producing music would be nice. I always thought it would be fun to go to different buildings with contractors and see if their buildings are accessible. I don't know. I have no idea what my purpose here is. But it is something. I pray about it. It's been amazing so far. It's been one adventure after another. It's been a sweet ride. I have no doubt it will continue to be for the rest of my life."

E-Community Activity: Jessie, Randy, Todd, and Success Strategies

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Subject: Jessie, Randy, Todd, and success strategies

Jessie, Randy, and Todd, who have disabilities related to learning, sight, and mobility, respectively, try different strategies to achieve success. When one doesn't work, they try something else. Give an example of how trying different strategies has brought success in your life or in the life of someone you admire.

E-Community Activity: Jessie, Randy, Todd, and Awkward Situations

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Subject: Jessie, Randy, Todd, and awkward situations

Jessie, Randy, and Todd, who have learning, visual, and mobility disabilities, respectively, have learned to handle awkward situations at times. When Todd arrived for an interview, his future employer asked, "How did you become disabled?" A restaurant employee told Randy his service dog could not come into the establishment. Being able to handle these situations in a positive manner is critical to leading a self-determined life.

Describe an awkward situation you have been in and how you handled it. If you had to do it over, would you handle the situation in a different way? Why?

Mentor Tip: Success

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Subject: Mentoring tips on success

You can play a significant role in encouraging young people to develop their own definitions of success. You can also help them achieve success. Consider the following suggestions from young people and adults with disabilities who participated in an online discussion about this topic.

  • I think teachers and parents need to help their kids understand what it is they want out of life. I believe that happiness is the key factor to a lot of things. It's one of the key factors that goes into picking a school, a career, a spouse, and a home. I believe that success is accomplishing the goals that make you happy.
  • Help young people accept their disabilities as a part of who they are yet not allow themselves to be defined by them.
  • Provide young people with support that can lead to greater self-confidence, skills, and self-determination.
  • Set reasonable boundaries and expectations.
  • Help young people make constructive use of their time.
  • Model positive values.
  • Help kids develop positive friendships and good social skills.
  • Understand that you will never be able to shelter kids from everything all of their lives.
  • Let them experience things while they are developing problem-solving skills so that they will be able to decide on their own what they should do and not what they think others want them to do. Let them know that their contributions and friendships are valued.
  • Teach young people how to use the resources necessary to become independent and achieve a high quality of life. Knowing what's available in the community, taking advantage of those resources, and using them effectively and efficiently are keys to success.

E-Community Activity: Emulating Characteristics of Successful People

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors. The content is from a research study on characteristics of successful people by Mann (1994).


Subject: Emulating characteristics of successful people

Common characteristics of successful individuals with disabilities include:

  • determination
  • motivation
  • perseverance
  • courage
  • independence
  • resourcefulness
  • ambition
  • positive attitude
  • religious beliefs
  • family support

Select one of the characteristics that you would like to make stronger in your life. What can you do to make this characteristic stronger?

E-Community Activity: Achieving Success

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Subject: Achieving success

Everyone has experiences where they are not successful. We can all learn from those experiences.

Describe a situation where you were not completely successful. What could you have done, if anything, to make the outcome more desirable? What could others have done, if anything, to help you?

Mentor Tip: Self-Determination

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Subject: Mentoring tip on self-determination

One of the goals of our e-mentoring community is to help participants become self-determined. Self-determination is "a combination of skills, knowledge, and beliefs that enable a person to engage in goal-directed, self-regulated, autonomous behavior. An understanding of one's strengths and limitations together with a belief in oneself as capable and effective are essential to self-determination. When acting on the basis of these skills and attitudes, individuals have greater ability to take control of their lives and assume the role of successful adults" (Field, Martin, Miller, Ward, & Wehmeyer, 1998, p. 2).

Gaining control of one's life involves learning and then successfully applying self-determination skills. Becoming more self-determined is a gradual, lifelong process. However, adolescence is a critical time to develop these skills. As you communicate with protégés in our electronic mentoring community, think about how your input can move them along the path of self-determination.

E-Community Activity: Defining Self-Determination

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Subject: Defining self-determination

"Self-determination" means you have control over your life, something we all strive for. It can be defined as a combination of skills, knowledge, and beliefs that enable a person to engage in:

  • goal-directed
  • self-regulated
  • and autonomous behavior

What does "goal-directed," "self-regulated," or "autonomous" mean to you? Give an example of when you exhibited this quality or when you did not.

E-Community Activity: Characteristics of Self-Determined People

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Subject: Characteristics of self-determined people

We know that we can lead more successful, satisfying lives if we are self-determined. But what are some of the characteristics of self-determined people? If you have a high level of self-determination, you are likely to:

  • know your needs, desires, interests, strengths, and limitations and use this information to make choices
  • be self-confident and have healthy self-esteem
  • be creative
  • have a clear vision of the future
  • feel in control of your life
  • be a good self advocate
  • be a good negotiator
  • have good problem solving skills
  • identify and choose from several options and anticipate consequences for each
  • take responsibility for your decisions
  • manage your behavior and take appropriate actions
  • make future plans based on outcomes of previous actions
  • be persistent
  • know where to find help when you need it

Name one of these characteristics that you would like to make stronger for you and tell why.

E-Community Activity: Steps Toward Self-Determination

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Subject: Taking steps toward self-determination

When you were a baby, adults made all of your choices. As you grow older, you are gradually able to make more decisions for yourself. When you become an adult, you direct your own life.

If you are not yet an adult, tell about something you still need to learn before you are a self-directed adult. What is one thing you can do now to learn this?

Mentor Tip: Commitment to Learning

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Subject: Mentoring tips on commitment to learning

In a positive relationship with our protégés, you can nurture internal qualities that guide choices and create a sense of purpose and focus. Forty developmental assets have been identified by the Search Institute as building blocks of healthy development of young people. Internal assets are grouped into four categories: commitment to learning, positive values, social competencies, and positive identity. I will include some of them in this and three additional messages. Assets associated with a commitment to learning include the following.

Internal Asset Evidence
Achievement motivation Young person is motivated to do well in school. 
School engagement Young person is actively engaged in learning.
Homework Young person reports doing at least one hour of homework each school day.
Bonding to school Young person cares about his or her school. 
Reading for pleasure Young person reads for pleasure three hours or more per week.

Think about how you can encourage young people to value learning. 

The Developmental Assets™ are reprinted with permission from Search Institute℠. Copyright 1997, 2006 Search Institute, 615 First Avenue NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413; 800-888-7828. All Rights Reserved. To view the full list of assets, please visit www.search-institute.org. The following are registered trademarks of Search Institute: Search Institute℠ and Developmental Assets™.

Mentor Tip: Positive Values

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Subject: Mentoring tips on positive values

Young people need to develop values that guide their choices. Developmental assets in this category identified by the Search Institute include the following.

Internal Asset Evidence
Caring Young person places high value on helping other people.
Equality and social justice Young person places high value on promoting equality and reducing hunger and poverty.
Integrity Young person acts on convictions and stands up for his or her beliefs.
Honesty Young person "tells the truth, even when it is not easy."
Responsibility Young person accepts and takes personal responsibility.

Think about ways you can encourage young people to develop positive values. 

The Developmental Assets™ are reprinted with permission from Search Institute℠. Copyright 1997, 2006 Search Institute, 615 First Avenue NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413; 800-888-7828. All Rights Reserved. To view the full list of assets, please visit www.search-institute.org. The following are registered trademarks of Search Institute: Search Institute℠ and Developmental Assets™.

Mentor Tip: Social Competencies

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Subject: Mentoring tips on social competencies

Young people need to develop skills and competencies that equip them to make positive choices, to build relationships, and to succeed in life. Developmental assets in this category identified by the Search Institute include the following.

Internal Asset Evidence
Planning and decision making Young person knows how to plan ahead and make choices. 
Interpersonal competence Young person has empathy, sensitivity, and friendship skills.
Cultural competence Young person has knowledge of and comfort with people of different cultural/racial/ethnic backgrounds.
Resistance skills Young person can resist negative peer pressure and dangerous situations.
Peaceful conflict resolution Young person seeks to resolve conflict nonviolently. 

Think about how you can help young people develop social competencies. 

The Developmental Assets™ are reprinted with permission from Search Institute℠. Copyright 1997, 2006 Search Institute, 615 First Avenue NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413; 800-888-7828. All Rights Reserved. To view the full list of assets, please visit www.search-institute.org. The following are registered trademarks of Search Institute: Search Institute℠ and Developmental Assets™.

Mentor Tip: Positive Identity

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Subject: Mentoring tips on positive values

Young people need to develop a strong sense of their own power, purpose, worth, and promise. Developmental assets in this category identified by the Search Institute include the following.

Internal Asset Evidence
Personal power Young person feels he has control over "things that happen to me."
Self-esteem Young person reports having high self-esteem.
Sense of purpose Young person reports that "my life has a purpose."
Positive view of personal future Young person is optimistic about her or his future.

Think about how you can help young people develop a positive identity. 

The Developmental Assets™ are reprinted with permission from Search Institute℠. Copyright 1997, 2006 Search Institute, 615 First Avenue NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413; 800-888-7828. All Rights Reserved. To view the full list of assets, please visit www.search-institute.org. The following are registered trademarks of Search Institute: Search Institute℠ and Developmental Assets™.

Mentor Tip: Self-Development

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Subject: Mentoring tips on self-development

The types of online activities for teens that I will be sending out to the whole community include recognized strategies for self-development. Among them are role modeling, affirmations, self-assessment, self-reflection, and visualization. Their meaning and value are summarized below.

Role Modeling

On our life journey it helps to know or learn about people who have personal characteristics, life experiences, or interests similar to our own and who have reached goals of interest to us. We learn vicariously through their experiences and can better visualize ourselves as successful. We can also learn specific strategies for reaching our goals. Unfortunately, young people with disabilities rarely have opportunities to interact with successful adults who have disabilities similar to their own.

In many of the online activities for teens in our program, successful young people and adults with disabilities share their experiences, beliefs, and advice. Readers will find some statements they disagree with; others will reinforce their current beliefs; still others they will embrace for the future. Teens with disabilities can learn from these stories and choose to incorporate attitudes and strategies into their own plans for the future.

Affirmations

Everyone draws conclusions about their circumstances, abilities, and performance. But sometimes, perhaps too often, these statements are negative, such as these:

  • That was a dumb thing to say.
  • I'll never be able to understand math.
  • If I didn't have this disability, I would be popular.

In contrast, affirmations are positive statements. Repeated to ourselves regularly, they can change negative beliefs about ourselves and, ultimately, create a more positive self-image. As we begin to repeat affirmations, we do not need to feel that the statements are completely true for us at the time. Rather, they can be considered goals. Examples include the following:

  • I am not easily discouraged.
  • I can deal with criticism in a positive way.
  • Although Dyslexia makes it difficult for me to read, I am smart.

In some of the email messages in our electronic mentoring community, affirmations of successful people with disabilities are provided as examples. Young people should be encouraged to review the affirmations presented and then develop a few affirmations for themselves. You might encourage them to repeat their affirmations every day, maybe several times a day. They could write them on cards to carry as reminders. By repeating them to themselves, they can slowly replace negative beliefs and thoughts with positive ones.

Self-Assessment

Sometimes it is useful for us to assess our current strengths and challenges regarding learning styles, communication, conflict resolution, and other skills in order to gain insight into the best strategies for reaching our goals. In the online activities for teens you will find exercises that promote self-assessment, as well as interactive instruments that can be found on the Internet. These topics can provide a great starting point for a rich dialogue between teens and mentors.

Self-Reflection

We all question why we do things, why things happen to us, and why people treat us in a certain way. However, often these questions are negative and unproductive. Examples include the following:

  • Why did I say that?
  • Why am I always late?
  • Why does the teacher always call on me when I don't know the answer?
  • Why can't my parents be more supportive?

With practice, self-reflective questions can be more productive and lead to greater success in the future. Here are some examples:

  • What can I learn from getting that poor grade that will help me get a better grade next time?
  • How can I respond to a negative comment about my disability next time?
  • What did I accomplish at school this week?
  • What are my major strengths?
  • What can I do now to prepare for college?

Many of the online activities in our electronic community encourage teens to answer questions that help them understand themselves and others more fully and develop success strategies for the future.

Visualization

Through visualization you can imagine your best self or an ideal situation. You can visualize yourself doing well when taking a test, talking to a teacher, making friends, handling a difficult situation, performing in a job interview. Visualizing a specific situation and practicing various responses can help you feel comfortable in that circumstance and increase the chances for a positive experience.

In some of the online activities in this electronic community, participants are asked to visualize themselves participating in a specific activity or acting in a specific, self-determined way. Sharing the experience with others and role-playing a situation can increase the value of the visualization experience.

Mentor Tip: Problem Solving

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Subject: Mentoring tips on problem solving

The ability to solve problems is a crucial skill in leading a self-determined life. As a mentor you have the opportunity to model this important skill for our protégés. You can use the following process to help protégés learn to identify and solve problems.

  1. Identify or clarify the problem. Be specific. Sometimes what seems like one problem is actually two or more separate problems. Focus on one at a time.
  2. Outline several possible solutions to the problem. Consider positive and negative aspects of each.
  3. Identify the best solution.
  4. Identify steps to implement your solution.
  5. Implement your solution, making adjustments as necessary.
  6. Review the final outcome. Analyze why or why not your solution worked and what you learned from the experience.

E-Community Activity: Advice from Teens

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Subject: Advice from teens

Success means different things to different people, and people find it in different ways. Read the following advice from people with disabilities who have been successful personally, socially, academically, and/or professionally. Post a message with advice you would add to the list.

  • Don't let others inhibit your dreams.
  • Define success for yourself.
  • Set goals. Keep your expectations high.
  • Don't let your disability or other challenges dictate your goals.
  • Look at obstacles as challenges that can be creatively avoided or overcome, in full or in part.
  • Develop strategies to reach your goals.
  • Plan to work harder than your peers to achieve some goals.
  • Become an expert on your abilities and disabilities, how they impact your life, and what accommodations work for you.
  • Play to your strengths.
  • Use technology as an empowering tool.
  • Don't be afraid to fail; you need to take risks to succeed.
  • Ask for help when you need it.
  • Maintain a positive attitude.
  • Don't use life challenges, such as a disability or family background, as an excuse for failure.
  • Find the humor in life's experiences.

E-Community Activity: Success Stories on the Web

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Subject: Success stories on the web

There are many people with disabilities who have achieved high levels of success. In this activity you will use the Internet to learn their stories and reflect on your own life.

Read about famous individuals with disabilities on at least one of the websites with the following addresses:

www.iidc.indiana.edu/cedir/kidsweb/fpwdinfo.html
www.disabilityhistory.org/people.html
hcdg.org/famous.htm

Choose a person and read about their life in depth. Send a short message to our electronic community, including an answer to at least one of the following questions.

  1. What attitudes does this person have that contribute to his/her success?
  2. What actions has this person taken to improve his/her life and/or the lives of others?
  3. What have you learned from this person's story that you can apply to your own life?

E-Community Activity: Affirming Success

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Subject: Affirming success

Listed below are affirmations of individuals with disabilities who have achieved success. Read each statement and think about whether it applies to you.

  • I am a creative problem solver.
  • I am assertive.
  • I am persistent.
  • I do not give up easily.
  • I am adaptable.
  • I can think of ways to accomplish a task differently.
  • I can resolve conflicts in a positive way.
  • I work hard.
  • I am self-disciplined.
  • I take risks.
  • I communicate.
  • I access resources and support.
  • I am an effective self-advocate.
  • I can negotiate.
  • I can deal with conflict and criticism.

Select one of the statements that is not always true for you now, and give one example of what you can do to make this statement stronger in your life. Tell us how a parent, teacher, or other person in your life could help you make this statement stronger in your life and how you can obtain their assistance.

Part II: Supporting Teens in an E-Mentoring Community

PART II of this book is organized around advice synthesized from hundreds of responses from the successful young people and adults with disabilities who contributed to the content. These chapters contain text of messages for the online community administrator to send to mentors and protégés. The administrator can choose from a collection of Mentor Tip and E-Community Activity messages. Note that some of the content is also published in Taking Charge: Stories of Success and Self-Determination (Burgstahler, 2006c) and DO-IT News at www.washington.edu/doit/Newsletters.

The entire content of this book can be found at www.washington.edu/doit/Mentor. Use the electronic version of the document to cut, paste, and modify appropriate content and distribute to participants in your electronic community; please acknowledge the source.


In Chapter Five mentors help young people learn to define success for themselves.

In Chapter Six mentors help participants set personal, academic, and career goals.

Chapter Seven tells mentors how to help teens understand their abilities and disabilities and play to their strengths.

In Chapter Eight mentors guide teens in developing strategies for meeting goals.

Chapter Nine helps mentors encourage young people to use technology as an empowering tool.

Chapter Ten tells mentors to remind teens of the value of hard work, perseverance, and flexibility.

In Chapter Eleven mentors explore with teens how a support network can lead to a more successful, self-determined life.

Chapter Five

Define Success for Yourself


Life is not so much a matter of holding good cards,
but sometimes of playing a poor hand well.

— Robert Louis Stevenson —


This book is about helping young people achieve success. But what do we mean by "success?" Success means different things to different people. For some, positive family relationships and friendships are most important. For others, academic and career achievements weigh heavily in their definition of success. Some measure success primarily in religious aspects of their lives. Clearly, "success" is a subjective concept, unique to the individual, and related to many aspects of our lives—personal, social, spiritual, academic, and professional.

The people with disabilities who contributed to this book define success in many different ways. Here are a few examples:

  • Success is defined by who we are, what we believe in, and what we think it means to be "successful." For some it is money, for others, relationships; for others, it's family; for others, it's jobs; for some it is religion; and for others it is education. I believe that success is reaching my own personal dreams. I'm not done with my dreams, but know that I have been successful so far because I've worked toward my goals regardless of my disability. (college student who is deaf)
  • Success is possessing the capability for self-determination. Self-determination is the ability to decide what I want to do with my life and then to act on that decision. (high school student who is blind)
  • A successful life is one where I can be actively engaged in creative activities that make a contribution to the lives of others. Success is a kind of by-product and NOT an end in itself! (professor who is blind)

Successful people do not succeed all the time. They tend to experience many setbacks and failures, perhaps more than less successful people because they take more risks. Failing to take action minimizes our opportunities for success, to learn from our experiences, and to lead self-determined lives. In this chapter you'll learn how successful individuals have defined success for themselves and how you can help young people arrive at their own definitions for success.

Photo of DO-IT staff member working with a Scholar at the computer.
 

So what can we learn about the meaning of "success" from the individuals with disabilities who contributed to this book? Young people who complete the online activities will learn the following:

Success can be achieved by everyone.

  • Success means different things to different people.
  • Success should be related to a person's own personal belief system and values.
  • Success can be measured in specific outcomes, as a process, or as a state of mind.
  • Standards for success can be related to personal, social, spiritual, academic, or employment goals.
  • Success can be defined for small, short-term goals, for overall life achievements, and for steps along the way.
  • Self-determination—being able to make and act on important decisions in your life—is a measure of success.
  • Successful people with disabilities accept disability as one aspect of who they are, but they do not allow their disabilities to define who they are or to dictate their goals in life.
  • Successful people are socially competent. They make connections with others and value friendships.

Successful people know that they do not have control of everything in their lives. However, they can make choices and determine the course for the most important aspects of their lives.

The e-mentoring administrator can select appropriate electronic mail messages from the following examples and send those with titles labeled Mentor Tip to the mentors only and the messages labeled E-Community Activity to the entire online community. Use these examples to stimulate other ideas for online discussions. It is desirable that, ultimately, most discussion topics come from the mentors and protégés.

Mentor Tip: Steps to Success

Send this message to the mentors only.


Subject: Mentoring tips on steps to success

Some of the messages I will be sending out to our online community are organized around the following advice, synthesized from hundreds of responses from successful young people and adults with disabilities who responded to a survey:

  1. Define success for yourself.
  2. Set personal, academic, and career goals. Keep your expectations high.
  3. Understand your abilities and disabilities. Play to your strengths.
  4. Develop strategies to reach your goals.
  5. Use technology as an empowering tool.
  6. Work hard. Persevere. Be flexible.
  7. Develop a support network. Look to family, friends, and teachers.

I will be sending the mentors some summary information in addition to the messages I send to our entire online community.

[name of e-mentoring administrator]

Mentor Tip: Definition of Success

Send this message to the mentors only.


Subject: Mentoring tips on definition of success

In the next message to the electronic community I will ask participants how they define "success" for themselves. Here are examples of how this question was answered by a group of successful teens and adults with disabilities. These responses might provide some inspiration as you interact with the teens in our community.

  • To me, having a successful life is being able to do things independently for myself and not always have someone there to do things for me. It's achieving my goals on my own terms and at my own pace. (high school student with a mobility impairment)
  • Success is a relative term. If you achieve what you want to and are happy, then I think that is success. It could be applied to life in general or to individual tasks in life. (college student with a mobility impairment)
  • My definition of success is achieving personal goals, whatever they may be. Some goals are considered small by some people and enormous by others. What matters is that they are personal; each individual has his/her own formula for personal success. (college student who is deaf)
  • I remember what my high school voice teacher told the class as we prepared for our senior solo. She said, "Success comes in CANS, and failure comes in CAN'TS." (speech language pathologist who is blind)
  • Succeeding is accomplishing my dreams. However slowly I am moving toward that, to some degree I am succeeding. (high school student who is blind)
  • Even though you might not have obtained that set goal, you are successful if you tried your best. (college student with a brain injury)
  • To me, success is being able to do whatever it takes to lead a productive life. (young person who is blind) Success? That's an easy one. BE HAPPY. (high school student with a learning disability)

E-Community Activity: Learning from Successful Experiences

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Learning from successful experiences

The following statements about success were made by people with a variety of disabilities.

  • For me, a successful life is living comfortably and satisfied. I don't need to be rich, just have enough money to get what I need and a few things that I want. I would like to have a good job that I enjoy doing and live in a decent-sized apartment with my husband and kids. As long as I have my family and we can live well, I'll be satisfied. This will be when I feel I can say I have achieved success.
  • Success is pursuing what you want. Even when you fail or when setbacks occur, to choose to continue pursuing something is a success of its own. If you then happen to accomplish what you set out to do, that's another success. But, always, you must keep trying, keep your goals in mind, and give your best. Then, even if things don't turn out the way you hope, you have succeeded.
  • The wonderful thing in this world is not where we are, but rather in what direction we are moving. My master's degree is a nice symbol of many challenges overcome and achievements attained. However, the times I've touched another person's life are even more important to me and confirm that I'm successful.
  • I live my life by the SABAH (Skating Association for the Blind & Handicapped) motto: "I CAN do it, I CAN skate." Learning how to ice-skate changed my life forever. I am happier and healthier in every aspect of my life.
  • To me success is knowing and understanding yourself, acceptance, and love.

Imagine being eighty years old. At that time in your life how do you think you would evaluate how successful your life has been?

E-Community Activity: Finding Your Goals for Success

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Finding your goals for success

One successful person in an online discussion about definitions of success said:

Success may be when you educate the educators about your disability. Or achieve the National Honor Society. Or a date with the cute guy/gal. A homeless person's success might be finding a permanent shelter. To a college graduate, starting work. To someone working at a company, success might be attaining the CEO's position. Or success might be just getting through today. (adult with mobility and speech impairments)

What specific goals for success relate to your life?

E-Community Activity: Learning from Teens with Disabilities

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Learning from teens with disabilities

The DO-IT Scholars program supports teens with disabilities as they pursue college and careers. Consult the most current version of the Snapshots publication at www.washington.edu/doit/Snapshots.

Explore the interests and experiences of teens with disabilities whose bios are included in the publication. Consider how their interests compare with yours.

E-Community Activity: Learning from Role Models

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Learning from role models

It can be encouraging to know or read about individuals with disabilities who are working in fields in which you are interested. These people can become role models for you. You can try to emulate qualities that you admire, and they can provide inspiration for pursuing careers. Are you interested in being an engineer? An accountant? A biologist? A computer scientist? A physicist?

Role models can be people you know or people you don't know; they can be famous or relatively unknown. In this activity you'll learn about the lives of potential role models for you.

Visit the websites with the following addresses to learn about people in different careers and with a wide variety of disabilities.

www.disabilityhistory.org/people.html
www.independenceinc.org/?p=1526
www.as.wvu.edu/~scidis/organize/fsdrole.html
netac.rit.edu/goals
www.callahanonline.com

Choose one individual in a career that interests you. Send a short message to the group about this person. Include an answer to at least one of the following questions:

  • What disability does this individual have, and what has he/she done to make the disability an advantage in life?
  • What attitudes does this person have that contribute to his/her success?
  • What actions has this person taken to improve his/her life? To improve the lives of others?
  • What is interesting to you about this individual's job responsibilities or other activities?
  • What accommodations does this individual use in specific situations?
  • What special skills does this person use for success?
  • What have you learned from this person's story that you will apply in your own life?

E-Community Activity: Discovering Academic Success Factors

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Discovering academic success factors

Thirty-six college students with disabilities were asked to identify factors that influenced their academic success. Factors related to their personal beliefs are listed below. For each, think about whether you possess the characteristic.

  • Discipline
  • Effort
  • Personal ambitions
  • Self-confidence
  • Prior knowledge and experience
  • Ability

Tell us about someone you know who has at least one of these qualities. Give an example of his/her behavior that demonstrates this quality.

E-Community Activity: Selecting Your Best Teacher

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: The best teacher award

As you define success for yourself, sometimes it can be helpful to think about how you measure the success of someone else. Think about what it means to be a good teacher and about your best teachers in school.

Tell us who you would nominate for a "Best Teacher Award" and describe at least one quality that qualifies this teacher for the award.

E-Community Activity: Defining Success

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Defining success

Success means different things to different people. How do you define success for yourself?

Mentor Tip: Keeping a Positive Attitude

Send this message to the mentors only.


Subject: Keeping a positive attitude

A positive attitude is often key to a successful life. Described below are ways that a positive attitude has enhanced the lives of people with a wide variety of disabilities. Contributors also share factors in their lives that helped them develop a positive attitude. Reflect on these responses as you mentor protégés in our e-community.

  • Most of our society is "average." As far as I can tell, "average" is a wide gap, and as far as I'm concerned, I fall somewhere in the middle of it. (adult with a mobility impairment)
  • I can attribute most of my positive attitude to the support system in my life—most importantly my parents. They've helped me to see the light and laughter in tough situations and have always been supportive with endeavors that help me to be successful in life. Most importantly, they've raised me to be an independent and outgoing individual, which goes hand in hand with having a positive attitude. They expected me to do on my own everything that was possible for me to do on my own. (college student who is paraplegic)
  • I spent a lot of my childhood in a hospital bed, so I would have gone crazy had I wallowed in the disease of self-pity. I've tried to refrain from wallowing in self-pity or self-righteousness. Both paths lead to nowhere. There were times, of course, when I absolutely hated being "disabled" and wished the struggles away. There were many things I wanted to do that I didn't really see myself doing from the "confines" of a wheelchair. For example, I wanted to dance....I mean REALLY dance....floating through the air. You just can't do that from a four-wheeled object, and, besides, I have quite a large ego and I'm pretty much a perfectionist, and I couldn't do it the way it was "supposed" to be done. But I DID dance, in my dreams....and so I learned to play the music that others danced to....and that was OK. (adult with a mobility impairment)
  • For me, being with the same peers all through my schooling gave me confidence because my peers learned to look past my disability. I was also active in Boy Scouts, earned my Eagle rank, and am still active as an assistant Scoutmaster. This gave me purpose and fun with a group. (high school student with a mobility impairment)
  • Sometimes I fall into the bad habit of negativity. I am, however, successful at swimming upstream, where I find myself able to catch my breath, gain some of my strength back, and carry on with this thing called "life." I still look forward to tomorrow, because I know there is something that I've yet to complete, some place that I've yet to discover, and some person that I haven't met who needs to see me smile or feel my touch or hear a bit of cheer. (adult with a mobility impairment)
  • I have a positive attitude, and I am optimistic about my future. This attitude was developed through a great deal of encouragement by adults and through my own experiences growing up. Also, the many new advances in technology that have given me opportunities in life contribute to this optimism. Doors are now open to me as far as jobs are concerned. (college student who is blind)
  • I think I have a positive attitude because all my life I've been around positive people. My parents know that there is no limit to what I can do, despite my disability. When my brother was born, I couldn't walk or even crawl, and I was three at the time. Now, I'm able to walk, with help from a walker or a cane. I feel optimistic about my future because I know I can do anything that I set my mind to. (high school student with hearing, speech, and mobility impairments)
  • Whenever I find myself not being positive, I try to put into perspective how fortunate I truly am, and usually what I'm upset about ends up looking pretty trivial. (college student who is paraplegic)
  • Whenever my positive attitude gets deflated, I always think that things could be a lot worse than they are, and that makes me thankful for what I do have and have to offer to others. Another key factor that helps to develop and maintain a positive attitude is finding something physically that I enjoy doing and am good at. For me, I love exercising and being in shape. So in my spare time I work out, run, and go rock climbing. (student who had a stroke)

E-Community Activity: Building a Positive Attitude

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Building a positive attitude

  • Successful people tend to have a positive attitude and are optimistic about their future. Reply to this message with an answer to at least one of the following questions: Do you have a positive attitude? Why or why not? Do you feel optimistic about the future?
  • How do you think you developed your attitudes?
  • How, if at all, would you like to change your attitudes and why?

E-Community Activity: Finding Humor

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Finding humor

Successful people tend to be able to see the light side of situations. This includes finding the humor in things that happen to people because of their disabilities. In an online discussion, people with hearing impairments shared the following funny experiences.

  • I once got off a plane in Sioux Falls and had a wheelchair waiting for me because they knew I had a disability. I am deaf.
  • One of my favorite stories was told to me by a counselor who is deaf. He's driving through a drive-through window. He gets to the speaker and says, "Hello, I'm deaf and won't be able to hear you. I can read lips so we can communicate when I get to the window." All of a sudden this woman in the booth gets this "Oh good, I'm trained for this, I know what to do" look on her face as she runs out and gives the guy a Braille menu....in his car....he's driving.
  • It's happened more than once that someone will come up to me and ask me if I'm from France or Germany or Switzerland or some European country because of my "accent." You can imagine the shock on their faces when I tell them I have a hearing impairment. Some of them act embarrassed. "Bonjour!" That's all the French I know! :)
  • In my sophomore year of high school my math teacher left the room for a minute when I was using an FM amplification system (which amplifies the voice of the speaker, who is wearing a clip-on microphone, into my hearing aid). The teacher had the microphone attached to his shirt. If you leave the room with the FM system, the sound doesn't stop transmitting! :) Well, I heard some running water, and so I turned my FM off to save myself and my teacher from a major embarrassment. A few minutes later, I looked up and my teacher was right there in front of me. His face was as red as a beet as he announced, "I was just washing my hands, okay?"
  • I've had the same experience! After class I told him I was scheduling an "FM Embarrassment Seminar" for the teachers who use the FM system. We still joke about it.

Share a humorous situation that occurred as a result of your disability.

E-Community Activity: Affirming Success

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Affirming success

Successful people learn from their experiences. Below, successful people with disabilities share advice on learning from their experiences as they work toward achieving goals.

  • Find something that you do well, and use that as a stepping stone to succeed in other areas.
  • Never, ever give up on your dreams and goals, no matter what happens. Like they say, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!" Just because you don't make it the first or second or third time doesn't mean you will never make it. Every time you don't make it will make you a stronger person and will make you want to reach your goals even more.

Read each of the following affirmations of successful individuals and reflect on whether it applies to you now.

  • I am resilient.
  • I can handle things that happen to me in a positive way.
  • I compare outcomes to what I expected.
  • I compare my performance to what I expected.
  • I make adjustments based on outcomes.

Select one of the statements that is not always true for you now and describe one example of what you can do to make this statement stronger in your life.

Chapter Six

Set Personal, Academic, and Career Goals. Keep Your Expectations High.


It is today that we create the world of the future.

— Eleanor Roosevelt —


When seventy-one adults with specific learning disabilities who had achieved success in their careers were interviewed, researchers found patterns to their success (Reiff, Gerber, & Ginsberg, 1992). The success factors were divided into two categories:

  • internal decisions
  • external manifestations

Successful adults exhibited a powerful desire to succeed and were goal-oriented. A strong motivator was a desire to gain control of their lives. They recognized that their disabilities presented them with significant challenges that require determination and hard work to overcome.

Photo of a former DO-IT Scholar meets and talks with a Mentor.
 

Adults can play important roles in helping young people with disabilities set their goals and keep their expectations high. As pointed out by a special education teacher who has dyslexia:

A combination of people and events has helped me maintain high standards. This all started during the summer months when my mother and neighbor friend pushed me to improve my academic skills. At the time it wasn't high standards that I was working for but rather escaping embarrassment. I wanted no one to know I had a disability and would have done most anything to hide it. These summer study sessions provided a stepping stone for future success in high school and college. Success builds itself. This was my start to expecting to do well in school.

Dreaming has a bad reputation because it's associated with doing nothing rather than seen as an important part of a process. For an individual, dreaming can serve the same function as brainstorming serves for a group—getting creative ideas on the table without dismissing them too quickly.

Adults sometimes worry about the "unrealistic" dreams of young people with disabilities, perhaps because of their desire to protect them from failure. Once, I was having lunch with a second-grader whom I was teaching to use a computer. He has no use of his arms and legs as a result of a birth defect and uses his mouth alone to control the computer. Someone at our table asked the standard kid question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Without hesitation, he said, "A fireman." The adults were noticeably silent. I asked why he wanted to be a fireman. He responded in the I-can't-believe-how-dumb-adults-are way that only kids know how to do: "Because I want to put out fires." The next day one of the women who had been at the table approached me privately to say, "Wasn't that sad when he said he wanted to be a fireman?" I asked what she meant and she said, "Because, obviously, he will never be one." I said, "Most kids who want to be firemen don't become firemen—he's just like the rest of them." The only difference is that we adults get more concerned when children with disabilities dream of things that may not come to pass than we do when children without disabilities do the same thing. My little friend and I did talk about this topic again—several times. He concluded, among other things, that the fire engine would need to be wheelchair-accessible and someone would need to help him hold the hose. Finally, he decided that all of his accommodations would take away a lot of the fun of being a fireman. By that time he learned that there was the job of dispatcher—he would do that! (Another dream that he did not ultimately pursue, even though this job was entirely within his reach.)

Photo of Phase 1 DO-IT Scholars in the computer lab.

The acts of dreaming and then thinking through the steps to reaching that dream are key to leading a fulfilling life. All children, including those with disabilities, need to dream—dream big.

Completing the following online activities will help young people:

  • Set personal, academic, and career goals.
  • Plan for success.
  • Keep their expectations high.

The electronic mentoring community administrator can select appropriate messages from the following examples and send the Mentor Tip messages to the mentors only and the E-Community Activity messages to the entire online mentoring community. Use these examples to stimulate other ideas for online discussions. It is desirable that, ultimately, most discussion topics come from the mentors and protégés.

Mentor Tip: Goals

Send this message to the mentors only.


Subject: Mentoring tips on goals

You can help young people set and reach goals. Consider the following recommendations from successful people with disabilities:

  • If a goal can't be reached, help the child modify the goal in a way that makes it more attainable. (adult with a mobility impairment)
  • One of the main reasons people do not set high expectations is fear of failure. In my opinion, fear is more "disabling" than any other disability. To address this, adults can start by setting achievable goals that are not long-term. The more success is experienced, the higher or longer the adults should help the young person set the next goal. Build on each success and make each goal a little higher. Think of it as a metaphorical high jump. You cannot set the bar too high in the beginning or you just set yourself up for failure. (adult with hearing and mobility impairments)
  • The first is not to focus on the disability at all. I'm certain that being mainstreamed all of my life kept me in touch with what other minds, disabled and non-, knew. The second is almost Zen-like. Let the young person find the path they want to follow. Everyone has talents. When this occurs, do your utmost to make opportunities for success available. (college student with a mobility impairment)
  • Don't discourage them with your own doubts. Believe in them, and know that they can do it, even if it takes extra time. Don't try to do stuff for us that you know we should do for ourselves. (college student with a mobility impairment)
  • Don't stop young people from what they want to achieve, but support them and definitely be there with them. Help them along the way. When I water-skied and rock climbed, my husband was right there beside me....and just as concerned as everyone else, but he encouraged me. I think encouragement is key, and supporting young people is very important. (college student who had a stroke)

Mentor Tip: Goal Setting

Send this message to the mentors only.


Subject: Mentoring tips on goal setting

In the following statements successful people with disabilities share how they have set goals and developed high expectations for themselves. These quotations may serve to prepare you for helping teens set high yet achievable goals for themselves.

  • As for personal goals, I had a saying after I became disabled: "Once I am able to water-ski again, I'll know I can do anything, because water-skiing takes strength, endurance, and balance, three things that I lacked. When I can water-ski, I'll know I have these three things again." Well, I am proud to say that this past summer I not only water-skied again, but I got up on my first try!!! So, although reality says that I may not be capable of doing ANYTHING, I know that I can accomplish a lot more now that I came up on the skis! (college student who had a stroke)
  • I'm just stubborn and I refuse to lower my expectations. (college student with a mobility impairment)
  • Very early on, I became the stubborn guy I am today. "Can't" wasn't in my vocabulary, which was helped by parents who offered me opportunities to do most of the things everyone else did and encouraged me to set high standards. By now, I realize that everyone has a path in life that their unique set of talents and lack thereof give them. I will never be mistaken for an athlete. However, knowing what talents I do have, I press myself to be the best historian/philosopher/writer that I can be. (college student with a mobility impairment)
  • I am still in the process of learning to "stretch," but I start by identifying what I can already do—what I am comfortable doing and feel good at. Then I say to myself (sometimes in writing), I can do more. I can do better; what is it BEYOND what I already can do that I want to be able to do? Then I write down goals and make efforts to "stretch" myself. (adult with hearing and mobility impairments)

E-Community Activity: Setting Goals

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Setting goals

Successful people set high yet achievable goals for themselves. What advice would you give to parents, teachers, and mentors as they try to help young people with disabilities set goals and keep their expectations high?

Mentor Tip: Promoting High Expectations

Send this message to the mentors only.


Subject: Promoting high expectations

Sometimes students with disabilities and those who work with them set academic and career goals too low. Sometimes this is because of their lack of knowledge of empowering tools that can be used by people with disabilities in careers in which they have been historically underrepresented.

For more information about the accessibility of careers for people with disabilities, consult the AccessCAREERS searchable Knowledge Base and related resources at www.washington.edu/doit/Careers.

For a better understanding of tools and strategies that help people with disabilities pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, consult the AccessSTEM searchable Knowledge Base and related resources at www.washington.edu/doit/Stem.

Mentor Tip: Getting Help with Setting Goals

Send this message to the mentors only.


Subject: Mentoring tips on getting help with setting goals

In my next message to the electronic community I will ask members to share experiences about setting high standards for themselves. Please share your experiences. To stimulate ideas, consider the following statements made by successful people with disabilities.

  • My parents....taught me never to say "I can't" at anything I try. That's why I'm where I am and who I am today. (high school student with a mobility impairment)
  • My mobility teacher made me confident in my ability to learn, which has helped me maintain high expectations. (college student who is blind)
  • My parents actively sought help for my hearing impairment in the forms of speech therapists, audiologists, and teachers to make sure that I had an equal chance in public schools. (college student who is deaf)
  • I was not treated differently than my brother and sister in any way because I could not see. They expected me to perform as well as I would have if I could see. This did not just include academic performance; it included everything, such as personal grooming and communication skills. (computer scientist who is blind)
  • Three factors were of primary importance in setting my internal standards for performance and achievement.
    1. My mother always thought that I was a little better than most at whatever I undertook, even when she was wrong. Her attitude taught me that I could undertake anything that I was willing to set my mind to, even when I was mediocre. In school, every time I got lazy and did poor work, I got told that I was working "way below my abilities."
    2. I was very competitive, for grades in school and in the athletic activity of my choosing—fencing.
    3. A friend of mine who I met fencing had polio when he was three years old and had severe motor loss in both legs, but he still fenced, making up for his limited mobility with an incredibly fast and strong hand and arm. He was quite successful in competition. Therefore, when I got polio at twenty-five years of age, I knew that it wasn't the end of the world and that I could do anything anybody else could as long as I could sit down to do it. (adult with a mobility impairment)

E-Community Activity: Getting Help to Maintain High Expectations

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Getting help to set high expectations

What people (parents, siblings, friends, mentors, teachers) in your life have helped you maintain high standards for yourself? You can also share stories about how people have made it difficult for you to maintain high expectations for yourself.

E-Community Activity: Matching Academic Interests with Careers

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Matching academic interests with careers

It is fun to explore the careers pursuing your academic interests might lead to. To find out what careers specific college studies might prepare you for, access at least one of the websites with the following addresses:

www.uncw.edu/stuaff/career/Majors
content.monstertrak.monster.com/tools/careerconverter

Enter different major fields of study at the site, and explore careers to which completing college degrees in those majors might lead.

Reply to this message and tell us what you learned about pursuing careers that interest you.

Mentor Tip: People with Disabilities and STEM

Send this message to the mentors only.


Subject: People with disabilities and STEM

People with disabilities are underrepresented in challenging careers such as those in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Students with disabilities are not often encouraged to pursue these fields. DO-IT maintains a collection of resources to encourage these students to pursue STEM and to help educators make reasonable accommodations for them. Check out the AccessSTEM website that is linked from www.washington.edu/doit. Explore the "Knowledge Base" of questions and answers, case studies, and promising practices and select the "Resources" button to read publications, view videos online, and address issues related to STEM access for students with disabilities. This exploration will prepare you for discussion of the questions I present to the e-community in my next message.

E-Community Activity: Pursuing STEM

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Subject: Pursuing STEM

Students with disabilities are often discouraged from pursuing challenging careers such as those in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Why do you think this is the case? Do you think students with disabilities should be discouraged from pursuing these fields? Have you been encouraged or discouraged in STEM areas of study?

E-Community Activity: Considering College Options

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Subject: Considering college options

Consider college options for reaching a specific career goal. For example, if you decide that you would like to have a career as an electrical engineer, you should consider the academic programs at various schools that will provide you with the training you will need. Funding options are also important to consider.

  1. Access the website at www.washington.edu/doit
  2. Select "AccessCollege."
  3. Select "The Student Lounge."
  4. Select "Colleges, Universities and Financial Aid."

Explore at least one of the listed websites, and tell us what you learn.

E-Community Activity: Making Plans

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Subject: Making plans

If you want to succeed at something, you need to plan for success. Break down big, long-term goals into smaller, achievable steps. Review at least one of the following websites:

Career Planning Process
www.bgsu.edu/offices/sa/career/page18303.html

The Person-Centered Planning Education Site
www.ilr.cornell.edu/edi/pcp

Planning a Career
mappingyourfuture.org/PlanYourCareer

Tell us about a goal you have regarding recreation, school, or employment. List at least three things you need to do to reach this goal, and identify at least one thing you can do right now to move closer to your goal.

E-Community Activity: Affirming Success

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Subject: Affirming success

Read each of the following statements and think about whether it applies to you now.

  • Life is good.
  • I don't let others inhibit my dreams.
  • I'm an expert on my disability and/or learning challenges, how they impact my life, and what accommodations work for me.
  • My disability is only one aspect of who I am.
  • My disability does not dictate my goals.
  • I have control over the most important aspects of my life.
  • I make independent decisions for myself.
  • Just because I fail at one thing does not mean I am a failure.
  • I use technology to maximize my success.
  • I know what I need and when to ask for help.
  • I value my friendships.
  • I see the humor in life experiences.

Give one example of what you can do to make one of these statements stronger in your life. Tell how a parent, a guardian, a teacher, or another person you know could help you make this statement stronger in your life and how you can obtain their assistance.

Chapter Seven

Understand Your Abilities and Disabilities. Play to Your Strengths.


The best way to prepare for life is to begin to live.

— Elliot Hubbard —


Photo of two students are interviewed by an adult and interviews are going on in the background.

Understanding yourself provides the foundation for taking self-determined actions. It is a key to success. To know yourself means to be aware of strengths, weaknesses, needs, interests and preferences. Self-awareness is essential for developing goals that reflect personal desires and for making informed decisions. Valuing yourself leads to positive self-esteem. The belief that you are part of something larger and more enduring than daily struggles can provide the strength required to persevere when life presents its inevitable challenges.

You can help young people gain an understanding of their abilities and disabilities and then learn to play to their strengths. This knowledge and skill can contribute to a successful life. For example, one successful college student who had a stroke at a young age wrote:

One example of how I understand my abilities and disabilities is that as much as I love science, I am more socially inclined. When I entered college I wanted to do biology and become a doctor or something to help people. When biology did not work out I switched to speech therapy, but that did not work either (even that was heavily science-based). Finally, many people told me that I should try counseling, so now I am in social work with the end goal of counseling and it is working out great for me. I know there are many different things I can do as a social worker that will all involve counseling.

In studies of childhood risks and adversities it has been found that young people can minimize the effects of disabilities and other risk factors by "learning to see one's adversities in a new light" (Katz, 1997). Successful individuals who overcome adversities are often able to define themselves more around their multiple talents than around their areas of vulnerability. Being able to show their talents and have them valued by those who are important to them helps them define their identities around that which they do best. It has even been found that children's perceptions of their competence are stronger predictors of behavior and achievement than objective measures of their capabilities (Phillips & Zimmerman, 1990).

How society labels individuals with disabilities as a group can also have an impact on how young people with disabilities view themselves. Responding to labels can test self-identity and self-value. Mentors can play a key role in shaping the self-perceptions of young people.

People with disabilities who consider them-selves successful generally accept their disabilities as one aspect of who they are. They do not define themselves by their disabilities. They recognize that they are not responsible for their disabilities, and they know that they are not inherently impaired. They do not blame others for their situation, nor do they have a sense of entitlement. Instead, they take responsibility for their own happiness and future.

Photo of Sheryl Burgstahler helps a Scholar at the computer in the computer lab.

After completing the online activities in this chapter, young people will reach a greater understanding of their abilities and disabilities. These exercises will help students to:

  • know their strengths and weaknesses
  • understand their rights and responsibilities
  • know that their disabilities do not define them as individuals and have a limited impact on their lives
  • define their self-worth in terms other than the stereotypes of others
  • have high self-esteem
  • know their lives have meaning
  • make positive contributions to their families, schools, and communities

The e-mentoring community administrator can select appropriate messages from the following examples and send the Mentor Tip messages to the mentors only and the E-Community Activity messages to the entire online mentoring community. Use these examples to stimulate other ideas for online discussions. It is desirable that, ultimately, most discussion topics come from the mentors and protégés.

Mentor Tip: Disability Acceptance

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Subject: Mentoring tips on disability acceptance

People with disabilities who consider themselves successful generally accept their disabilities as simply one aspect of who they are. They do not define themselves by their disabilities. They recognize that they are not responsible for their disabilities; instead, they take responsibility for their own happiness and success. People with disabilities who responded to an online survey on this topic made the following statements:

  • God makes each one of us with an ability; society creates the "dis." (adult with a visual impairment)
  • My personal opinion about disabilities is that everyone is disabled. It just so happens that there is a certain group whose disabilities are more obvious than others. (high school student with mobility and visual impairments)
  • Believe in who you are and what you want to achieve, and don't let anyone or anything stop you from reaching your goals. (college student with a mobility impairment).
  • Sometimes you run into people who think it is extraordinary that you do what you do with a disability. The important people in your life (like your parents) expect you to earn your way in the world and be responsible just like everybody else. (college student who is blind)
  • Don't allow anyone to convince you that your disability is disabling! Don't allow society to ban you from a certain profession simply because disabled individuals have traditionally avoided that field! Remember always that you and only you have control of your life. (college student with a mobility impairment)
  • My mom, my grandma, and my aide at school are all responsible people and have taught me that characteristic. If you aren't responsible, you won't succeed. Not only should you take responsibility for the good things, but also for your mistakes. (young person with Muscular Dystrophy)
  • My parents helped me learn to accept responsibility for myself by treating me the same as my siblings. They gave me the same punishments and chores, and they expect me to do well in school. (high school student with speech, hearing, and mobility impairments)
  • My mom gave me enough independence so that I could learn the consequences of my actions. This is how I developed good judgment. I also learned that constructive criticism is a good thing....It's how I learn to do things more efficiently the next time around. This is where mentors become a valuable resource. (graduate student with a hearing impairment)
  • There was a teacher who opened my door to the world. She taught me to accept who I was. Early on, I began building self-confidence and self-esteem. To this day, those qualities allow me to stand up for my beliefs and to act on my own convictions. (college student with a hearing impairment)
  • As people with disabilities we need to be assertive about what we need and don't need. We need to make our needs clearly, politely known. (adult with a mobility impairment)
  • Do not make people feel sorry for you or pity you. Get people to view you as an able person who is capable of anything within your reach if the doors of opportunity are open. (graduate student with a hearing impairment)
  • Clearly, disabilities can be obstacles. However, it's important to focus on obstacles that problem solving can surmount. Sometimes trade-offs do exist. I once wanted to go into biochemistry, but my lack of fine-motor skills and general distrust of lab partners made me realize that I wanted something I could do on my own—hence, history-philosophy. Admittedly, I rerouted, but for those who are determined to be biochemists and such, most obstacles can be overcome with abilities. (college student with a mobility impairment)
  • We should focus on the ABILITY in disability more than the DIS. If we can do that, then we are more apt to succeed. Also, know your limits. If you don't know what you can or can't do, how do you expect other people to know? Plan for success by using more of the cans than the can'ts. (college student with mobility impairments)

E-Community Activity: Accepting Disability

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Subject: Accepting disability

A personal factor that has been identified as a characteristic of successful college students with disabilities is "acceptance of disability," suggesting that successful students understand the impact of their disabilities and accept them as something they must deal with in their daily life. This could apply to other challenges, such as financial limitations and family issues.

Share a challenge in your life that you have to overcome, or work around, in order to achieve success.

Mentor Tip: Labels

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Subject: Mentoring tips on labels

Our attitudes are reflected in the labels we use. How society labels individuals with disabilities as a group can have an impact on how young people with disabilities view themselves.

Responding to negative labels can test self-identity and self-value. Below is part of one conversation about terminology used to describe people with disabilities that took place in an online discussion of people with disabilities. These comments provide insights into how we as a society can best communicate about and with individuals who have disabilities, including the young people with whom we interact. Although specific opinions vary, they all promote using person-first language; describing a disability in a respectful, straightforward, and truthful way; and avoiding expressions that suggest that the disability implies anything beyond a specific functional limitation. Insights gained from reading these comments may be helpful as you mentor participants in our electronic community.

  • The phrase "differently abled" annoys me. My belief is that there is nothing inherent in a disability that makes us better in something else. Besides, the "differently abled" term tends to evoke the "supercrip" image.
  • The term "differently abled" drives me nuts. It strikes me as a phrase coined by nondisabled people who were trying to be politically correct but really had no idea what they were talking about. Some nondisabled people tend to think, also, that a term referring to a deficit, rather than a difference, is offensive to us. I don't know about everyone else, but I know I'm not offended by it. I do still prefer "disabled" to "handicapped;" however, my mom still uses "handicapped." I always tell her, "Handicaps are for bowlers and golfers."
  • I really don't like the concept of being politically correct (PC). My personal guess is that PC was created by a bunch of people who felt guilty about how they treated others. Bottom line is as long as it shows respect for the person, that's cool. I prefer "person with a disability." The point is that the person comes first and is separated from the disability.
  • The problem with these names is that they're to get us all into one group for convenience's sake. But for each of us, there is a term that's true. I'm blind, for example. If you say I'm blind, I say, "Yes I am." But physically challenged, disabled, handicapped....hmmmm.
  • The world, as I know it today, thrives on labels. And this is one area where the world isn't prejudiced. We've got geek, nerd, grunge, cool, old, stupid, dude, poor, rich, straight, queer, black, Yankee, hick, redneck, deaf, dumb, etc., etc. It seems that if there weren't labels no one on this planet would know how to talk about someone else.
  • A couple of conclusions that I've come to are these. First, we "label" things so that we CAN talk about them. That is the purpose of language—to identify people, places, things, ideas, and feelings. If we had no term to describe a person who has a disability, we would not have the Americans with Disabilities Act, this discussion list, or any of the other access instruments that we've all seen develop in the past several years. I don't think the problem is necessarily in the language, but rather in the negative feelings that may be behind the language. Humans have to communicate, and we do it most often through language. Identifying thoughts, objects, and even people as clearly as possible is a good thing. Using language to discriminate or be cruel is a bad thing.
  • If people feel it's necessary to describe me, I prefer my name and "who is physically challenged." Too many people associate Cerebral Palsy with mental disabilities (which irritates me!).

E-Community Activity: Trying New Things

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Subject: Trying new things

You can't learn about all of your abilities and interests if you don't try new things. Cook something new. Learn about a famous person. Plant a garden. Learn to play a musical instrument. Paint a picture. Write a poem. Join a club. Learn to sew. Plan a party.

Tell us about something you tried and then developed an interest in.

E-Community Activity: Identifying Your Likes and Dislikes

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Subject: Identifying your likes and dislikes

You will spend a long time in school and at work. Building on things that you like to do and learn about is one step toward a fulfilling life. Give some thought to your likes and dislikes. Think about how you would complete each partial sentence below.

  1. One thing I really like to do is:
    One thing I really dislike doing is:
  2. One activity I really like at school is:
    One activity I don't like at school is:
  3. The subject I like most at school is:
    The subject I like least at school is:
  4. One activity I really like for recreation is:
    A recreational activity I don't like is:
  5. Something I like to do with my friends is:
    One thing I don't like doing with my friends is:
  6. An activity I like to do when I'm alone is:
    ​One activity I don't like to do alone is:

Share with the group a job you might enjoy because of your likes and dislikes.

Mentor Tip: Incorrect Assumptions

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Subject: Mentoring tips on incorrect assumptions

Successful people accept their disabilities as one aspect of who they are. They do not deny the existence of limitations, but they also do not allow their disabilities to define who they are. An important part of this self-awareness is learning to effectively deal with negative stereotypes and misunderstandings. The following comments were part of an online discussion about assumptions regarding people with disabilities, the topic for our next discussion in our e-community. They may provide you with valuable insights as you participate in our discussion.

  • Having cerebral palsy, I find almost everyone assumes that I am mentally disabled, too. I get annoyed with this. For a long time, I yearned to "fit in." But young people today want to stand out by coloring their hair and by wearing the "in" thing. I realize that I'm already there, and I accept my uniqueness. (adult with cerebral palsy)
  • People make a lot of false assumptions about the disabled. For example, they assume that just because I am blind I am not able to get around on my own. Someone will get hold of me and I don't have any idea who they are or where they are taking me. They assume that I don't know where I am going just because I can't see. (college student who is blind)
  • I like to assume that people are just trying to help. People, for instance, tell me when it is OK to cross the street. Some may think I can't do it without their help. Others may just think that they might as well tell me the light is green since they happen to be there. This is like when someone helps someone else carry heavy shopping bags up the steps—not because they think the other person can't do it, but just because they want to help. (adult who is blind)
  • I choose what people I want to take the time to explain my disability to. I communicate with an electronic device, so it would take all of my energy to explain it to everyone who looks cross-eyed at me. (adult with a mobility and speech impairment)
  • Human nature is to fear what you do not understand. This fear affects the way we are treated. My disability is Tourette's Syndrome, as well as some symptoms of various other disorders, including coordination problems. People assume that since I obsess and make facial movements and sounds that they consider strange, I am some sort of a freak of nature that must be avoided. Once people get to know me, they overcome these hang-ups. (high school student with Tourette's Syndrome)
  • A professor once told me that I probably couldn't see the board very well from where I was sitting. Frankly, I can't see the board from wherever I sit. (adult who is blind)
  • When people talk down to me, I usually ask some rather extreme question like "Do you think I am brain-dead?" Most people say that this is not a very good response. However, I think it is the way to go. (college student who is blind)
  • Last year, I went on a cruise. One night, I went up on deck to write in my journal. A couple walked by and sat next to me. The husband asked, "Is this English?" pointing to my chicken scratches. I said "Yes!" He looked at his wife and whispered, "Mentally retarded." Instead of getting mad, I started to talk to him and his wife. He and his wife were from the Bay Area. I told him I was from the Bay Area as well and working for Intel. I think they got the message that the label they put on me wasn't true. (adult with Cerebral Palsy)
  • I read lips and wear hearing aids. Sometimes people exaggerate their lip movements to the point where I can't understand them at all. Or sometimes they speak so slowly I fall asleep! Also, sometimes when I go tell someone that I'm deaf, they start signing to me. I'm sign language illiterate so that doesn't do me much good. But people are proud of their sign language skills, so I'm mostly amused and gently tell them thanks, but they just need to talk in their accustomed way and I'll understand them just fine—most of the time. But if a man has a droopy mustache, heaven help me! (adult with hearing impairment)
  • The more people have positive interactions with a person with a disability, the higher the likelihood that they will forget that he/she is a person with a disability and think of him/her as a person first. (graduate student with a hearing impairment)

E-Community Activity: Dealing with Incorrect Assumptions

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Subject: Dealing with incorrect assumptions

Successful people accept their disabilities as one aspect of who they are. They do not deny the existence of limitations, but they also do not allow their disabilities to define who they are. An important part of this self-awareness is learning to effectively deal with negative stereotypes and misunderstandings related to their disabilities.

What is an assumption someone made about you because of your disability that was untrue? How did you feel? How did you handle the situation? Would you handle the situation in the same way if it happened again? If not, how would you handle it?

E-Community Activity: Describing Your Disability

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Subject: Describing your disability

Self-knowledge can be reflected in how you describe yourself. For example, the way you describe your disability may suggest that you consider yourself strong and resilient, helpless and worthless, passive and dependent, or creative and productive.

During a rainy afternoon in a small lounge in McCarty Hall at the University of Washington, a group of high school students with disabilities viewed a collection of videos about people with disabilities. Their job was to come up with guidelines for context, style, and format for a new video on computer technology for people with disabilities. After showing one program that featured a boy riding a horse who used crutches to walk, a young woman who is blind suggested:

I think we should make a list of words that we will never use in a DO-IT video. "Special," "heartwarming," and "inspirational" go to the top of the list. Why are kids with disabilities any more or less "special" than other kids? And why did the announcer say it was "inspirational" to see a kid with a disability ride a horse when we assume other kids ride horses just to have fun?

What words do you prefer not be used in describing your disability or people with disabilities as a group?

E-Community Activity: Dealing with Rude People

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Subject: Dealing with rude people

You can't prevent people, with or without disabilities, from being rude. But you do have control of how you respond. You can develop a positive way of thinking about and dealing with the inevitable situations where you are labeled in a negative way. You can learn to separate your knowledge of the truth about yourself from the way you are described by others. In the following statements, individuals with disabilities articulate how these strategies play out in their lives.

  • Yes, it's not nice when someone walks up to you and says, bluntly, "Hey, what's wrong with you?" But remember that this person is curious. My experience has been that if you tell them about your disability, they are sometimes actually interested....If you educate one person about your disability, dispel one rumor, isn't it worth the anger at the bluntness of the question?
  • It is not impossible, but it is difficult to teach people to be more sensitive and understanding to how we feel when they give us different labels.
  • I don't blame anybody if they don't treat me the way I want to be treated, because I know that they are not in my shoes. They can't see or feel what I see or feel, because they don't experience what I do, and this is their disability. I have so many goals to achieve and dreams to seize, I have no time to stop and hear what they think I am. What they think of me is none of my business.

Others may view you differently than what you know to be true about yourself. The ability to know and value yourself even when others suggest otherwise is key to leading a successful life.

If someone describes you or your disability in a way that you do not like, what are some positive ways to handle the situation?

E-Community Activity: Thinking About Language

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Subject: Thinking about language

An interesting online conversation about labels emerged within a group of young people and adults with hearing impairments.

  • As a hearing-impaired individual, I always found it uncomfortable when people would say I'm "deaf." I prefer "hard of hearing" or "hearing-impaired" over "deaf."
  • I used to say I was "hard of hearing" and hated to be called "deaf." After losing more hearing, I became legally deaf. Even though I can talk and sing (badly), I am deaf.
  • I prefer the term "hearing impaired" because people don't react as badly as they do when the term "deaf" is used. When I tell someone I'm deaf, he/she acts as though I can't communicate at all. But if I say I'm hearing impaired, people think I can communicate, but I just have some trouble. Some people associate the word "deaf" with being dumb, even if they don't mean to.
  • "Deaf" simplifies things for me. The only problem that I've encountered over this terminology is that somebody heard me wrong and told another person that I was "death!"
  • I became deaf as an adult and in the process went through a period when I was "hard of hearing," meaning if I really concentrated I could still get information from sounds. Then I became totally deaf and now rely completely on my vision and other senses for all my information. I am "deaf" and feel that gives a clear picture of me and how to communicate with me (i.e., no matter how loud you speak, I am still deaf....GRIN!)....The problem I have with the term "hearing impaired" is that it implies that hearing is still there and if we work hard enough it might kick in....It also labels me impaired, which "I ain't." I'm just deaf. The hearing isn't impaired either. It just isn't there.
  • I sometimes forget I am deaf because the silence has become so "normal," and on those days I am startled to be labeled.

How do you like people to describe your disability? If wording is important to you, what can you do to let others know?

E-Community Activity: Responding to Labels

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Subject: Responding to labels

Read the following email discussion between people with disabilities.

  • Does anybody find that people who aren't disabled spend way too much time thinking up new terms to call "us?" In the '70s and earlier most of us were called "cripples." That seemed a little too cold, so throughout the '80s we were called "handicapped" or "disabled." But now we've gained the phrase "physically challenged." Do you guys feel any different when any of these names are used?
  • When someone says, "What disease do YOU have?" it hurts like hell, no matter how much self-worth I have.
  • No, it doesn't hurt or change anything when I'm called "handicapped," "physically challenged," or "disabled."
  • I hate the word "cripple." I also don't like the word "normal" when it is used to describe people who don't have disabilities. Does this mean "abnormal" is the opposite of "normal?" I never thought of myself as "abnormal"—disabled, malfunctioning, or handicapped perhaps, but never "abnormal."
  • An insight that people who get carried away with labeling need to catch is that we are all disabled, whether our disability is being hair growth impaired, having a crippled tolerance perspective, or just being blind to the feelings of fellow travelers.
  • I believe everybody has a disability of one type or another. I'm right in there with everybody else. Look for people's strengths, not their weaknesses.
  • I think that as with any minority group, there is an unfortunate tendency to assume that all disabled people are like the one or few that an outsider knows. Examples I have faced include assumptions that I must be cold, tired, incapable of comprehending, starved for touching (usually results in a pat on the head), uninterested in athletic events in which I cannot compete myself, destined for an early grave, financially needy, desirous of being approached by strangers, without appreciation of humor....I could go on ad nauseam.

How do different labels for your disability affect or not affect you?

E-Community Activity: Building on Strengths

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Subject: Building on strengths

Just like everyone else's, your life is a unique mix of strengths and challenges, abilities and disabilities. It is important to regularly take inventory of your strengths and limitations as you pursue a self-determined life. Then you can develop strategies for success that build on your strengths in your weaker areas, and develop strategies to minimize their impact.

What is one of your strengths and one of your challenges in completing schoolwork? Do you have an eye for good design? An excellent memory? A passion for history? Are you challenged by mathematics? Uninterested in business? Unable to manipulate small objects?

E-Community Activity: Redefining Limitations as Strengths

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Subject: Redefining limitations as strengths

Determining your strengths and limitations is not as black-and-white as it sounds. Sometimes, as noted by one teen who is a wheelchair user and quoted below, what others consider a weakness in your life you can actually choose to redefine as a strength.

A characteristic I think is a strength is my ability to worry a lot. Some consider this a weakness. I do in fact worry a lot. I worry about something that I hear about or see or even read about. Then it sometimes comes out as a big issue that I and others around me can address together as a group. Worrying about something is like saying that you care about what the outcome of a certain situation could be.

Describe a characteristic that you have that could be considered a weakness by some people but, looked at another way, could be considered a strength in school or employment.

E-Community Activity: Exploring Learning Strengths and Challenges

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Subject: Exploring learning strengths and challenges

Everyone has learning strengths and challenges; each person learns best in a unique way. Think about how you would complete the following sentences, considering factors that relate to you, your teacher, and your environment.

  • I learn best when I ...
    I have difficulty learning when I ...
    An example of what I can do to help myself learn is ...
  • I learn best when my teacher ...
    I have difficulty learning when my teacher ...
    An example of what I can do to help my teacher help me learn is ...
  • I learn best in an environment where ...
    I have difficulty learning in an environment where ...
    ​An example of how I can create a positive learning environment for myself is ...

Think about your level of strength regarding the following characteristics.

  • paying attention
  • processing/understanding what I read
  • processing/understanding what I hear
  • remembering things
  • expressing myself in writing
  • expressing myself by speaking
  • showing what I know
  • physical strength
  • ability to manipulate objects
  • visual ability
  • hearing ability

What is one of these characteristics that you consider a limitation of yours? How can you minimize its impact or even turn it into a strength?

E-Community Activity: Taking Inventory of Your Learning Style

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Subject: Taking inventory of your learning style

One aspect of who you are is your basic learning style. Knowing your learning style can help you understand yourself and how you can succeed.

Access the following website to explore your learning style:

www.metamath.com/multiple/multiple_choice_questions.html

What were the results? Do you agree with them? Why or why not?

E-Community Activity: Finding Careers That Use Your Skills

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Subject: Finding careers that use your skills

Access the website at

online.onetcenter.org

Select "Skills Search," and complete the skills inventory by choosing skills you want to be part of your future career. Read the results.

Research two occupations suggested in the results of the skills inventory. Consider how interested you are in pursuing these fields. Find out what skills and personality traits of yours will help you pursue these occupations. Think about what challenges you might face.

Tell us one thing you learned from completing the activity about careers that suit you.

E-Community Activity: Matching Skills with Careers

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Subject: Matching skills with careers

The Internet provides a rich collection of resources to prepare for a career. To match your skills with possible careers, access the website at

www.iseek.org/sv/12403.jsp

Rate how important it is for you to use specific skills in your future career.

Tell us what occupations were suggested as good matches for you. Do you agree? Why or why not?

E-Community Activity: Identifying Your Career Interests and Work Style

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Subject: Identifying your career interests and work style

Imagine going to work each day and saying "I want to" instead of "I have to." This can happen if your job matches your interests and work style. The Princeton Review Quiz will help you find out what these are.

Access the website at

www.princetonreview.com/cte/quiz

Select "Take the Princeton Review Quiz." Read each pair of statements, and select the one that most describes you. As you make choices, assume all jobs are of equal pay and prestige. Click "CONTINUE" after each page.

The results will give you a short description of your career interests and work style. Do these descriptions seem accurate to you? Why or why not?

E-Community Activity: Healthy Self-Esteem

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Subject: Healthy self-esteem

"Self-esteem" refers to judgements about yourself. If you don't like yourself very much and feel like most of your actions are stupid, you have low self-esteem; being teased and criticized a lot may contribute to poor self-esteem. If you think you are better than other people and are considered conceited, your self-esteem may be too high; you may feel that any time something goes wrong it must be someone else's fault. If you basically like yourself and you consider yourself to have a fairly typical mix of strengths and limitations, you probably have pretty healthy self-esteem.

What advice would you give to a friend who has poor self-esteem, in part because he or she is teased by other students?

E-Community Activity: Valuing Yourself

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Subject: Valuing yourself

Think about how the following advice from young people and adults who have disabilities does or does not apply to your life. Then share advice you have for members of our e-community.

  • Always remember that it's OK to be unusual.
  • Don't be afraid to express and stand up for what you believe just because it may be different from everyone else's beliefs.
  • Trust in who you are. No one can take that from you. If you don't stand up for yourself, you'll get trampled.
  • Learn to think for yourself and not follow the "herd." Be tough; be assertive; do not get discouraged. Accept life as it is, NOT as you would like it to be.
  • Live in the world of reality, but allow yourself moments of meditation and reflection on the nature of things. Whenever possible, enjoy good music, good food, good companionship.
  • Remind yourself that every life makes a difference. Make as large a difference as you can.
  • Do not think of yourself as more "special" than other people. You may have a few more hurdles, and higher hurdles, to deal with than others, but life is learning to clear the hurdles no matter what they are. If you want something, earn it like everybody else.
  • Never, never (did I say never?) use your disability as an excuse for not doing something. Remember, there is a whole world out there ready and willing to make excuses for you, and if you yourself make an excuse, others will happily accept the excuse. But every time such an excuse is given and accepted, you've limited what those around you will be prepared to let you do.

E-Community Activity: Learning to Value Yourself

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Subject: Learning to value yourself

To be a self-determined adult, you must understand and value yourself.

How could you help a younger child learn to value himself?

E-Community Activity: Affirming Self-Value

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Subject: Affirming Self-Value

Some positive statements of successful people who value themselves are listed below. Read each statement and think about your level of agreement about whether it applies to you.

  • I take good care of myself physically.
  • I take good care of myself emotionally.
  • I admire the strengths that come from my uniqueness.
  • I accept myself.
  • I have high self-esteem.
  • I have dignity and self-respect.
  • I have a sense of purpose in my life.
  • I trust my own judgment.
  • I make a positive contribution to my family, school, and community.
  • I feel comfortable around people with different characteristics.
  • I respect other people.

Describe yourself (age, interests, personality traits, abilities and disabilities) using only affirmative (positive) statements, with a focus on qualities you like and/or value about yourself.

E-Community Activity: Affirming Success

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Subject: Affirming success

Some affirmations (positive statements) from successful people with disabilities are listed below. Read each statement and think about whether it applies to you now.

  • I know what success means to me.
  • I use my own definition of success to measure my achievements.
  • I can achieve success.
  • I am self-determined.
  • I have a positive attitude.
  • I have a sense of purpose in my life.
  • I have a sense of humor.
  • I have control over the most important aspects of my life.
  • I can make friends, and I value my friendships.
  • I am sensitive to the needs of others.

Select one of these statements. Tell us what you can do and how others could help you make this statement stronger in your life.

Chapter Eight

Develop Strategies to Reach Your Goals.


First comes thought; then organization of that thought
into ideas and plans; then transformation of those plans into
reality. The beginning…is in your imagination.

— Napoleon Hill —


Photo of Sheryl Burgstahler works with two Scholars at a lap top computer.

Successful people set goals, keep expectations high, and are creative in developing strategies to reach their goals. They look at options and make informed decisions. Successful planning requires knowledge of one's rights and responsibilities, strengths and challenges. It also requires that we use tools and resources available to us. Insights in these areas are shared in this chapter.

A key skill for success is self-advocacy. Being able to self-advocate requires that people become experts on their disabilities, know what specific services and help they need, and be able to use strategies to obtain this help and support. Their lives should not be defined by the assumptions and decisions of others.

By completing the following activities young people will learn strategies to:

  • develop action plans for meeting their goals
  • anticipate the results and adjust plans accordingly
  • be creative as they develop their plans
  • visually rehearse their plans and make adjustments
  • be a self-advocate
  • communicate effectively

The e-mentoring administrator can select appropriate messages from the following examples and send the Mentor Tip messages to the mentors only and the E-Community Activity messages to the entire online mentoring community. Use these examples to stimulate other ideas for online discussions. It is desirable that, ultimately, most discussions topics come from the mentors and protégés.

Mentor Tip: Self-Advocacy

Send this message to the mentors only.


Subject: Mentoring tips on self-advocacy

One skill for success is self-advocacy. Being able to self-advocate requires that people become experts on their disabilities, know what specific services and help they need, and use strategies to obtain this support. Their lives should not be defined by the assumptions and decisions of others.

Following are statements from individuals with disabilities about taking control of their lives. They can provide insights into mentoring young people to become better self-advocates.

  • If a student does not speak up in school when she needs help because she cannot see the blackboard or she cannot read the book in front of her, she will fall behind in her schoolwork and have trouble achieving her goals. Disabled individuals need to remember that people are not psychic; if they have a problem and they do not tell anyone, nobody is going to magically figure out what the problem is. The more vocal you are, the more willing people are going to be in helping you. (college student who is blind)
  • When I was in high school, I would talk to my teachers individually each year to describe my needs to them. The teachers found this to be extremely helpful to them, and I found it helpful as well. When teachers or professors know a student's needs and what they can do to help a student excel, it makes everyone feel secure. (college student who is blind)
  • There is a difference between being the recipient of an act ("victimized") and allowing yourself to become overly affected by that act (to become a "victim"). (adult with mobility impairment)
  • We don't have to be "victims" of other people's assumptions. We are only victims if we choose not to take charge of a situation. If you are blind and someone grabs your arm and pushes you across the street and you don't say anything but would like to, then you are letting the other person force the result of his assumptions on you. If you, on the other hand, say either, "Thank you, but I'll be fine" or "Let me take your arm," depending on what you would like to do, then you are taking charge and aren't a victim. (adult who is blind)
  • I agree with others about taking charge so that we are not "victimized" by other people's assumptions. When [a blind person] tells a bystander, "Thanks, but I don't need your help," the bystander learns (we hope!) that people with visual impairments don't always need help. And when I ask the airline staff at the gate to tell me what someone has just announced over the public address system (which I can't lip-read, unfortunately), the airline staff person learns (again we hope!) that deaf people are capable of asking for help when they need it. So by being assertive, we lead people to look at their perceptions of us and even change them from inaccurate ones to more accurate ones. (adult who is deaf)
  • The more often I express my needs and preferences, the easier it becomes. The easier it becomes, the more comfortable I am, and that makes people more comfortable, and on and on and on. And somewhere in the midst of this is also the need to be both polite and clear. (adult who is deaf)
  • The way to preempt or erase assumptions is to tell people what you need rather than let them "act out" what they think you need. It is okay to say what you need help with. I think that is part of being independent. (adult who is blind)
  • Just by going about your normal business, you also show people what you don't need help with. After all, we all make assumptions, and even if a person has met someone with your disability, that other person may have had different abilities and needs than you do. For instance, people always assume that I access a computer using speech output, but I use a Braille display. The point is that communicating your needs is the best way to make everybody comfortable. (adult who is blind)
  • Tell people what you can do. Until a while ago, people doubted my wanting to work with games and graphics. I have a vision problem but so what. I'll give it a try, and if I can't then I can't. It's worked quite well so far. Like this semester I wanted to take an art class. My instructor had no past experience with someone visually impaired. I guess you don't see low vision students enrolling in a drawing class too often, but I love the class and am doing fine. (college student with a visual impairment)
  • Some people feel that because you have a disability you can't do normal tasks by yourself. I've even had people ask me if I wanted them to open my soda can for me. I think the best thing to do is to be assertive when people do something, or want to do something, for you that you feel you can do for yourself. I think people are just trying to be helpful and that they don't know for sure how much help, if any, they should give. (high school student who is blind)

Mentor Tip: Goals

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Subject: Mentoring tips on goals

You can help young people set and reach goals. Advice from successful people with disabilities about working with teens includes the following:

  • Keep your goals small to begin with, but as you grow in self-confidence, try to raise your expectations. There's no limit in the word "ability." (college student with mobility and speech impairments)
  • I don't aim too high and I don't aim too low. If I feel I can do it, I go for it. I get stressed out a lot, but what's life without stress? No life at all. If I get out there and believe in myself, then nothing will stop me from doing my best! (college student with mobility and speech impairments)
  • As someone who reads a lot and considers herself to be well informed, I have never come across the MAGIC answer. I read many books that offer ideas, strategies, and solutions, but none of them will work for everyone. I do encourage adults and young people to also read. Sometimes reading that one important book (like this one) is the critical factor in turning around a negative attitude. I also think giving young people a menu or toolbox to select options from is better than pushing ONE singular way to be successful. So give them many strategies, and let them use the strategies that suit them best. (adult with mobility and hearing impairments)
  • I think adults have an essential role for young people in letting them know that they are not alone and that adults have been through what they are now going through—as a young person one can often feel immensely alone and isolated even with lots of people around. Disability can intensify feelings of differences and isolation. Be around and be available to help young people make choices of strategies, make mistakes, learn from them, and be successful. (adult with mobility and hearing impairments)

Mentor Tip: Short- and Long-Term Goals

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Subject: Mentoring tips on short- and long-term goals

You can begin to help young people with disabilities by asking:

  • How can I help young people develop short-term goals that will lead to reaching longer-term goals?
  • How can I help young people identify specific steps to reach a goal?
  • How can I help young people develop effective strategies and skills for reaching goals?

E-Community Activity: Making Informed Decisions

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Subject: Making informed decisions

Making decisions is an important part of becoming an adult. To make good decisions, you need to understand the problem and know what options are available and the consequences of each.

Here are steps you can follow to make an informed decision:

  1. Determine what the problem is.
  2. Determine what information you need, and use personal and information resources to get it.
  3. Determine what choices you have and the consequences, advantages, and disadvantages of each action.
  4. Make a decision.
  5. Take action.
  6. Evaluate your decision according to results.
  7. Adjust your decision or next steps as needed.

What are some of the things you need to know in order to make an informed decision about what colleges to apply to?

Mentor Tip: Rights and Responsibilities

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Subject: Mentoring tips on rights and responsibilities

A "right" is something you are entitled to. A "responsibility" is something you are expected to do. As young people mature, they need to take increasing levels of responsibility. Knowledge of their rights and responsibilities, as well as those of others, will help them make plans that will lead to success. Below are comments of successful young people and adults with disabilities about taking responsibility. Let's see how the reactions of participants in our electronic community compare with these.

  • I accept responsibility for my own actions, decisions, and feelings. Taking responsibility makes me feel that I have control over what is happening. I obtained this trait from my parents and by realizing that it generally makes me feel good when I accept and take responsibility. (Ph.D. candidate who is blind)
  • I accept and take responsibility for myself. My mother and teachers have helped me to see that this skill is important. I have come to realize that a person must be responsible in order to succeed in life. (college student who is blind)
  • I think that when a person finally realizes that he can't get around his disability and that he might as well make the best of things is when he truly begins to take responsibility for himself. I know that might sound pretty harsh, but from my experiences it's true. My mother is the one person who has helped me see this. She has been my supporter and advocate throughout my life, but she never let me think that it was not my problem. (high school student with a learning disability)

E-Community Activity: Knowing Your Rights and Responsibilities in College

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Subject: Knowing your rights and responsibilities in college

A "right" is something you are entitled to. A "responsibility" is something you are expected to do. As you get older, you need to take increasing levels of responsibility. Knowledge of your rights and responsibilities, as well as those of others, will help you make plans that will lead to success.

The responsibilities of postsecondary institutions are somewhat different from those of precollege schools in the United States. In elementary and secondary educational systems, schools are required to provide a free and appropriate public education to each child with a disability. Postsecondary institutions are required to provide reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities who are qualified to participate in their programs.

In college you have a right to reasonable disability-related accommodations. However, it is your responsibility to provide appropriate documentation and request accommodations.

Read the publication Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education: Know your Rights and Responsibilities at www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/transition.html.

What did you learn?

E-Community Activity: Securing Accommodations in College

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Subject: Securing accommodations in college

Students with disabilities have a right to reasonable accommodations in college. Review the website at www.washington.edu/doit/Faculty/Strategies to explore typical accommodations institutions provide for students with different types of disabilities.

What types of accommodations might you need in college? When should you make the request for accommodations and to whom?

E-Community Activity: Developing Study Habits

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Subject: Developing study habits

In order to achieve academic success, it is important to develop good study habits. Even students who did not need to study a lot in high school will find that they need good study habits in college. Here is what one successful person with hearing and mobility impairments reports:

I could never achieve anything without writing things down. Sometimes I use a calendar, sometimes a blank sheet of paper in my notebook, and sometimes the computer. I use a prioritization process. I write out everything that I need to do. Then I mark the things that MUST get done today or tomorrow as opposed to later, and I prioritize in order of importance. I get a lot of satisfaction crossing off accomplished steps. It also helps to break down larger tasks into smaller ones. I make lists, plan how to do the things on the lists, and then use the lists to motivate me to get things done.

Read the following suggestions for good study habits and tell us what you would add to the list.

  • Write a daily "to do" list.
  • Get organized by keeping a calendar that schedules work to be done and deadlines.
  • Break large projects into smaller tasks.
  • Study at high-energy times of the day.
  • Schedule uninterrupted study time each day.
  • Find your best study places.
  • Study in short segments throughout the day.
  • Find ways to revitalize yourself—exercise, dance, sleep, healthy snacks.
  • Create a support system of fellow students; study together or be available by phone and/or email.
  • Reward yourself for developing successful habits, such as allowing time to play a favorite computer game.

E-Community Activity: Creating Win-Win Solutions

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Subject: Creating win-win solutions

Although not all issues are negotiable, many conflicts can be solved so that both parties "win" something they want. The following steps can be taken in order to reach a win-win resolution.

  1. You ask the other person to say what he or she thinks and how he or she feels about the issue. Actively listen to make sure you are understanding the other person's point of view.
  2. You use assertive communication and "I" statements; tell how you think and feel about the issue.
  3. Each person thinks about ways to solve the problem so that both people "win."
  4. Both people state ideas for solving the problem.
  5. Together, the two people find a solution that is agreeable to both and make plans to implement it. (Field & Hoffman, 1996, p. 180-181)

Describe a situation you have experienced where a problem or conflict between you and a parent, sibling, teacher, or friend was resolved in a win-win conclusion.

E-Community Activity: Changing Advocacy Roles

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Subject: Changing advocacy roles

When you are young, adults in your life advocate for you. As explained by a college student with a hearing impairment:

My mom had a meeting with the Board of Education about the options that were available for placing me in an education program. The board suggested to my mother that I be placed in the local special education program. She did not agree with the board and decided to fight against placing me in a program that was geared toward developmentally delayed children. The board's rationale for their decision was that they did not have the funds to send me thirty miles away to the school where there was an appropriate early intervention/deaf education program. My mom began researching the laws related to education services for children with special needs, and that's when she found out about PL 94-142. She used this law to force the Board of Education to allow me to take a bus to the school where appropriate services were available. My mother taught me how to stand up for what I deserved.

As you become an adult, you learn to advocate for yourself. The same student says,

I learned to stand up for myself. [My mother] made sure that I was given the opportunities that were needed to allow me to grow and develop to my maximum potential. After that, it was up to me to fight for what I needed. [She] taught me how to be independent and to take matters into my own hands. I learned to be my own self-advocate at a young age, and I think a combination of that with self-esteem and confidence allowed me to excel to the level that I'm at today.

Give an example in your life of others advocating for you and one of you self-advocating. Share one thing you can do to become better at self-advocacy.

E-Community Activity: Self-Advocating

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Subject: Self-advocating

It is critical to your success to be good at self-advocacy. This means that you:

  • are able to determine what you need
  • know who can help you get what you need
  • are skilled at asking for what you need

Suggest how family members, mentors, teachers, and friends can help you become a better self-advocate.

E-Community Activity: Self-Advocating with Teachers

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Subject: Self-advocating with teachers

In high school your parents or guardians, teachers, and counselors work together and with you to make sure you have the disability-related accommodations you need. In college and employment, you need to advocate for yourself.

Sometimes teachers have a hard time understanding how they might best work with you so that you will be successful in their classes. You are the best person to explain this to them, but you may need some practice. One way to help teachers understand your learning styles, abilities, and disabilities is to meet with them or write a letter of introduction to give to them at the beginning of the year.

What would be important to tell your teacher about your interests, strengths, and challenges and about how he or she can best work with you so that you can be successful in the class?

E-Community Activity: Disclosing Your Disability in College

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Subject: Disclosing your disability in college

In college you need to disclose your disability and provide appropriate documentation to the disabled student services office. Staff in this office facilitate accommodations in specific classes. However, it is also important to be able to effectively communicate directly with your instructor about your accommodation needs. It is best to meet with the instructor before a class begins. This may be awkward or difficult for you, so it is good to practice.

Draft a script of what you might say to an instructor before class begins. Introduce yourself, describe your disability, share what you do to be successful, and request an accommodation (if you don't anticipate needing one, say something that indicates this and express that you wanted to introduce yourself in the event that an accommodation might be necessary later on in the course).

You can practice self-disclosure of your disability with an adult pretending to be the instructor. Begin by introducing yourself, telling the instructor what class you are in (an example would be "Hi, my name is Sarah Parker. I'm in your Chemistry 101 class. I have dyslexia, a learning disability. I am a very slow reader."). Then demonstrate how you will do your part, describing at least one strategy that you use for success. Be sure it is related to a challenge that you just mentioned. (In the example above, you said you are a slow reader, so a good response would be "I allow extra time in the evenings or on the weekends to complete reading assignments" or "I use a computer with speech output to help me read" or "I take fewer classes to make sure I have enough time to complete my work.") Finally, ask the instructor for an accommodation, and indicate who will do what. ("I will need extended time on tests. Here is a letter from the disabled student services office that explains my disability and accommodation needs and gives a phone number you can call if you have questions.") With this approach, the instructor has the information needed and understands that you will do your part in achieving success in the class.

What are the most important things that you would tell a college professor about yourself?

E-Community Activity: Disclosing Your Disability to an Employer

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Subject: Disclosing your disability to an employer

Deciding if and when to disclose your disability when you apply for and participate in employment is a critical decision that can contribute to or interfere with your success. How you disclose your disability can impact your success in obtaining the accommodations you need.

Think of a job for which you might apply. Would you disclose your disability? Why or why not? If so, when and how would you disclose your disability?

E-Community Activity: Advising a Friend About Disability Disclosure

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Subject: Advising a friend about disability disclosure

What advice would you give a friend with a disability that is not apparent regarding whether or not she should disclose her disability to an employer? If you recommend disclosing the disability, describe how and at what point in the employment process she should disclose.

E-Community Activity: Being Assertive

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Subject: Being assertive

It's important to tell people what you think, but some ways are better than others.

  • You can be aggressive; you yell at people and not listen to what they have to say.
  • You can be passive; you avoid eye contact and talk like you are unsure of what you want.
  • Or you can be assertive; you make eye contact when you talk, clearly state your wishes, and listen to the opinions of others.

Which approach do you think is most often successful—aggressive, passive, or assertive—and why?

E-Community Activity: Securing Job Accommodations

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Subject: Securing job accommodations

The Job Accommodation Network is a national service to help employers and people with disabilities select reasonable accommodations. Access the Job Accommodation Network website at

janweb.icdi.wvu.edu

Select a disability related to your own. Identify at least one idea about accommodating your disability in a job setting.

If you apply for a job and are eventually hired, at what point do you think it best to ask for a needed disability-related accommodation? Before the interview? During the interview? Once you are offered the job but before you start work? On your first day of work? After trying to satisfy the job requirements without accommodation? Explain your response.

E-Community Activity: Asking for Accommodations at Work

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Subject: Asking for accommodations at work

It's important to secure the accommodations you need at work in order to be successful. If you have been employed, share with the group your experiences in getting accommodations at work. What accommodations did you need and how did you get them?

E-Community Activity: Standing Up for Convictions and Beliefs

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Subject: Standing up for convictions and beliefs

Taking charge of your life requires that you stand up for what you believe in. Listed below are insights from successful individuals with disabilities about standing up for their convictions and beliefs. Think about your level of agreement or disagreement with each of these statements.

  • My grandmother, my mom, and my teachers have helped me stand up for my own convictions and beliefs. One fitting phrase my grandmother uses is "Dare to be different if different is right." (college student who is blind)
  • If you want to work toward something, go out and work for it. People can argue the point all they want, but I still don't let them make up my mind. (college student who is blind)
  • People with disabilities are no different in this case. I always got in trouble with my parents if I didn't stand up for what I believed. Even if they didn't agree with it. (college student with Tourette's syndrome, panic disorder, and epilepsy)

Describe an instance where you had to stand up for yourself, for someone else, or for a conviction. What made it important to take a stand and what was the result?

E-Community Activity: Learning from Mistakes

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Subject: Learning from mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes, but some people handle them more positively than others. Successful people learn to cope with mistakes in a positive way. They often treat a mistake as a problem to be solved, not as a characteristic of the person who made it. They monitor and evaluate outcomes of their efforts and make adjustments as appropriate, sometimes changing goals, standards, strategies, or support.

Tell the group about a mistake you made and how you learned from it.

E-Community Activity: Affirming Success

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Subject: Affirming success

Listed below are some affirmations of individuals with disabilities who have achieved success. Read each statement and think about whether it applies to you now.

  • I have high expectations for myself.
  • I set goals for myself.
  • I can identify steps to reach my goals.
  • I anticipate results.
  • I am motivated to succeed.
  • I like to do things myself.
  • I like to learn new things.
  • I work hard in school.
  • I am creative.
  • I have a sense of direction.
  • I plan ahead and make choices carefully.

Tell us what you can do to make one of these statements stronger in your life within the next month. Tell how a parent, guardian, teacher, or someone else you know could help you make this statement stronger in your life.

Chapter Nine

Use Technology as an Empowering Tool.


Do what you can with what you have, where you are.

— Theodore Roosevelt —


Photo of DO-IT Scholar typing on his lap top in the DO-IT computer lab.
 

Being technologically competent can provide an avenue to academic and career success. Computer technology is one of the most powerful tools available to individuals with disabilities. Technology, including computers, adaptive technology and the Internet, can help maximize independence, productivity, and participation. It can lead to the highest levels of success—personal, social, academic, and professional. As reported by successful individuals with disabilities:

  • The computer helps me organize my thoughts. I can read and make improvements with ease. I can check all of my papers for spelling errors before I send them. I am a really BAD speller. (high school student with a learning disability)
  • I use a combination of a palmtop note taker computer and a desktop computer to write. Without them I'd be lost. (college student with mobility/health impairments)
  • Without computers or the Net I would not be doing many things that I'm doing today. For instance, I am involved in a writing forum on the Net that lets writers talk about writing and share their pieces of literature with each other. Since I want to be a writer this has been VERY helpful. (high school student with Dyslexia and Attention Deficit Disorder)
  • One of my two or three best friends—maybe best next to my wife—and I met on the Internet, and we are not only friends but close working colleagues. (professor who is blind)

And new products are developed every year. As pointed out by a college student who is blind:

  • For me I look forward to the future with optimism because I long for the advancements that humanity will make in the fields of technology. Every year more and more technology is developed and marketed that can help make life easier for people with visual impairments.
Photo of Phase two DO-IT Scholars in the computer lab.

In the following online activities, young people learn about the roles technology has played in the success of people with disabilities and about how they can use technology to achieve their own success. By the end of this chapter, they will learn how computer technology can help them:

  • pursue recreational activities
  • make and maintain friendships
  • communicate with mentors
  • learn and enhance academic performance
  • achieve high levels of independence and productivity
  • develop skills that will lead to success in employment
  • pursue careers in fields that might otherwise be inaccessible

The e-mentoring administrator can select appropriate messages from the following examples and send the Mentor Tip messages to the mentors only and the E-Community Activity messages to the entire online mentoring community. Use these examples to stimulate other ideas for online discussions. It is desirable that, ultimately, most discussion topics come from the mentors and protégés.

E-Community Activity: Surveying Accessible Technology

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Subject: Surveying accessible technology

There are many types of assistive technology that allow people with disabilities to use computers. For a summary of approaches, consult Access to Technology: An Online Tutorial at www.washington.edu/doit/Brochures/Technology/aeit.html

What assistive technology do you use and/or would you like to use?

Mentor Tip: Promoting Technology

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Subject: Mentoring tips on promoting technology

The following statements are true.

  • Computers can help students in school.
  • Computer skills can lead to good jobs.
  • Computers can be used to support personal interests and social life.
  • Computers can help young people communicate with mentors.
  • Increasing numbers of jobs require computer skills.

Below is specific advice from successful teens and adults with disabilities about encouraging young people with disabilities to use computers.

  • The Internet is a valuable tool. Parents and teachers should do everything they can to provide access to the Internet to their students/children and then encourage them to use it. (college student who is blind)
  • I would advise a parent or teacher to tell kids that computers are the future and if they don't know how to use one then they will get lost in the dust. (high school student with a learning disability)
  • Being able to use a computer is a great skill to have today. Don't be afraid of computers! They won't bite. Kids with disabilities benefit extremely from access in their everyday academic lives. It is a tool that "levels the playing field." Computers and the Internet also promote social interactions. (high school student with a mobility impairment)
  • If you want to encourage a kid to use a computer, it is very important not to force them to do it. Everyone learns better when they are pursuing a personal interest. (high school student with a mobility impairment)
  • I would encourage students to join discussion lists that cover topics they are interested in. (young person with a mobility impairment)
  • (1). Give your kids an early start at learning technology. They should at least understand word processing, email, World Wide Web, and even some spreadsheets and databases. (2). Teach them a wide variety of programs to increase their chances of getting jobs. (3). Give them the opportunities to do internships to practice using technology on the job. (college student who is blind)
  • Experience, enjoy, and apply the concepts gained in everyday situations. (physics professor with a mobility impairment)
  • Parents and teachers should make sure that disabled students have easy and frequent access to computers and that students know how to use their technology comfortably without much assistance. DO-IT is great for learning how to effectively use email and the Internet—today I'm still using a lot of things that I learned at the Summer Studies. (college student who is deaf)
  • Let them work at their own pace. If they are totally for it the first time you ask them, great! However, if it takes a few times of urging them to use computers at school, just be patient with them. They will catch on sooner than you expect. (high school student with a mobility impairment)
  • Before you invest in a computer for a student, give him an opportunity to try out different types of technology. Let him pick out the hardware and software that works best for him. Don't make false assumptions! Just because a device works well for some doesn't mean it will work for all. Get a complete idea of what the student needs, and use all the resources you have to learn what is available. Let him get recommendations from others and try out different pieces of equipment. From that point, you and the student can decide what kind of technology works best. (college student who is blind)
  • Email requires deaf individuals to really focus on developing English skills. Encourage students to always proofread their messages before sending them. Once you hit the send button, it's too late to go back and change something. (employee who is deaf)
  • My advice to students with disabilities and their parents and teachers is that technology is not a nicety; it is a necessity. Get it, learn it, and use it. (college student who is blind)

Mentor Tip: Technology Access

Send this message to the mentors only.


Subject: Mentoring tips on technology access

In school, technology can help level the playing field by giving students with disabilities opportunities to perform tasks independently and maximize efficiency. Below, people with disabilities share how computer technology has helped them achieve success in school. Here are some examples of how individuals with disabilities access technology.

  • I use word processing programs to compose my assignments, and the spell check feature to make my writing as professional as possible. I'm a terrible speller. (college student with a brain injury)
  • I use a computer every day to complete English and history assignments. I input them into a word processor via dictation software. This is because my spoken grammar is better than my written grammar. I am able to focus more on the learning and ideas, instead of the methods and mechanics. (high school student with dyslexia and attention deficit disorder)
  • I use a computer with a speech synthesizer, screen reader software, a scanner and optical character recognition software, a Braille printer, Braille translator software, and Internet services. The technology has really helped me with my schooling. I can do my homework using a word processor; communicate with my family, teachers, and friends using email; scan printed documents using my scanner and optical character recognition software; and do online research using the Internet. (college student who is blind)
  • The computer technology I use has a large monitor that makes it easier for me to read and edit my work while it is on the screen and avoid visual fatigue. The computer helps me write and edit my papers for school quickly. I can get information from the Internet for research papers. (college student who is visually impaired)
  • I use a Braille 'n Speak™ (an electronic note taker with a Braille keyboard and speech output), with the disk drive accessory. I also use a computer with screen reader software, and a speech synthesizer. I use the Braille 'n Speak™ for taking notes, keeping track of appointments and things to do, a scientific calculator, and a notepad for small writing projects. I use the computer for writing reports, reading email, surfing the Internet, and putting the finishing touches on the above small writing projects. (college student who is blind)

Mentor Tip: Technology and Success in School

Send this message to the mentors only.


Subject: Mentoring tips on technology and success in school

Students with disabilities can use technology to help them independently and efficiently complete a variety of tasks. Below, people with disabilities share how computer technology has helped them achieve success in school.

  • With computer technology, I am able to type most of my assignments instead of trying to write them. I'm left-handed and my left hand is considerably weaker than my right, making it difficult for me to write. (high school student with a mobility impairment)
  • I use the Internet to look up information on various subjects. (high school student with a psychological impairment)
  • I can type faster than I can write papers for school. On the computer it is also easier to correct any mistakes. (high school student with a mobility impairment)
  • I use a computer every day to complete English and history assignments. I input them into a word processor via dictation software. This is because my spoken grammar is better than my written grammar. I am able to focus more on the learning and ideas, instead of the methods and mechanics. (high school student with dyslexia and attention deficit disorder)
  • Email helps tremendously when doing group work and communicating with professors. (graduate student with a hearing impairment)
  • Since I have a hearing impairment and cannot use a regular telephone, I don't know what I would do without email! Email is how I contact professors and the Disabled Student Services office at my college. Some of my professors have web pages, and I use those a lot to help me with classes. Some web pages have lecture outlines/notes for upcoming lectures, exam dates, sample questions from previous years' exams, and other valuable tools to help you succeed in class. (college student who is deaf)
  • Electronic mail allows me to keep in contact with instructors if I am absent from class. (high school student with a learning disability)
  • The computer is an invaluable tool when it comes to research. If I need to look something up for a term paper, I no longer need to go to the library; rather, I can obtain the information via the Internet. (high school student with dyslexia and attention deficit disorder)
  • The Internet has been very useful in my college search. It has helped me find specific schools that have the programs I'm interested in. The Internet has also allowed me to stay in contact with the disability services coordinator at the school I'm planning to attend, which is out of state. (high school student with a learning disability)

As you interact with protégés, encourage them to use technology in school and share with them the addresses of interesting websites you find on the Internet.

E-Community Activity: Becoming Digital-Age Literate

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors. The content is from enGauge 21st Century Skills: Literacy in the Digital Age, a report published in 2003 by North Central Regional Educational Laboratory and the Metiri Group.


Subject: Becoming digital-age literate

A report titled enGauge 21st Century Skills: Literacy in the Digital Age lists four sets of skills all people need to be successful in the 21st century.

  • digital-age literacy
  • inventive thinking
  • effective communication
  • high productivity

What do you think is meant by "digital-age literacy?" How will you make sure you have it?

E-Community Activity: Using Technology with Young Children

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Using technology with young children

How would you advise parents, teachers, or friends of a child with a disability about the value of using technology and about what age children with disabilities should begin to use technology to maximize their capabilities?

E-Community Activity: Using Technology for Success in School

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Using technology for success in school

Technology—computers, adaptive technology, the Internet—can help individuals with disabilities maximize their independence, productivity, and participation.

Describe what computer technology you use in school and what you use it for. What other technology, if available, would help you in school?

E-Community Activity: Using Technology to Complete Homework

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Subject: Using technology to complete homework

An example of how a high school student was resourceful in using technology to help him complete a school assignment occurred in an electronic community. He posted the following message to a large group of peers: "Hi everyone. For an assignment in a class I am taking, I need to interview people on their definitions of love. I would appreciate any definitions from you for my paper. Thank you." Here are some of the responses he received.

  • Love is unconditional acceptance of a person, in spite of any physical, emotional, or spiritual conditions they may have.
  • Love is caring deeply and with a passion.
  • Love is the one thing that everyone, in some manner, wishes to give and to have given to them. It is probably the topic which has received, across cultures, the most thought and effort to understand. How ironic then that it is probably the most elusive and difficult goal we will ever try to attain.
  • Love is the quality of giving of one's life so that others' lives may be bettered—in other words, it's the way that we live as it relates to how we give (people just LOVE that rhyming stuff).
  • It has a lot to do with giving and working with, as opposed to against, someone.
  • I don't think that a person who has lost the capacity to love is human anymore.
  • To keep your own thoughts and ideas out of the way when you are listening to another human being is the ultimate act of love. When you love, you feel free and unguarded with the other person. But before you can love, you must first risk. Makes life kind of tough, doesn't it?

Describe a creative way you have used or could use technology to help you in school.

E-Community Activity: Using Technology in Science and Engineering

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Subject: Using technology in science and engineering

Technology makes it possible for people with disabilities to engage in studies and careers that were at one time not accessible to them. Share examples of how modern technology has made it possible for people with disabilities to pursue these fields.

E-Community Activity: Surfing the Web to Prepare for College

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Surfing the web to prepare for college

The Internet provides a rich collection of resources to prepare for college. The AccessCollege website links to many of them and provides a searchable knowledge base of frequently asked questions, case studies, and promising practices.

Access the DO-IT website at

www.washington.edu/doit

Select "AccessCollege" and then "The Student Lounge" and explore the resources you find.

Tell the group one thing you learned about preparing for college at DO-IT's AccessCollege website.

E-Community Activity: Using Technology in Your Career

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Using technology in your career

Computer technology is used in almost all career fields today. How will technical skills help you get and excel in a job in a field of interest to you? How can you get the skills you need?

E-Community Activity: Using Technology in Careers

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Using technology in careers

Computer technology can help you prepare for and succeed in careers. The following comments demonstrate the value of computers in the employment arena.

  • I have a couple of mentors who have helped me along my career path, and they have saved me from making some mistakes that they made. The Internet is a valuable tool in locating and communicating with mentors in your career area. (high school student with mobility impairment)
  • Computer technology has really helped me with my career preparation. I use online communication all the time to learn about job opportunities in different areas. For example, I can go to the employment department online and download information about technical support positions in my area. I can do so many things with online communication that can't be done over the phone. If I get hold of information I want to take with me somewhere, I can load it into a word processor, delete unnecessary text, and then translate the message into Braille for a quick reference. (college student who is blind)
  • The technology has really helped me with my career goals. I have had several computer-based internships while still in college. My experiences helped me develop and apply my computer skills and made me decide to get a degree in computer applications so I can assist others with technical issues. (college student who is blind)
  • I use a word processor, online communications, and other programs. Technology has helped me complete three successful internships where I used my online and word processing skills to do my work. For example, I just completed a summer work experience at the public library and I did a lot of online research. I even got the opportunity to train other staff members in how to use special technology. (college student who is blind)

What advice would you give to parents and teachers about encouraging students with disabilities to learn to use computers in preparation for their careers?

E-Community Activity: Surfing the Web to Prepare for a Career

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Surfing the web to prepare for a career

The Internet provides a rich collection of resources to prepare for a career. The AccessCAREERS website links to many of them and provides a searchable knowledge base of frequently asked questions, case studies, and promising practices.

Access the DO-IT website at

www.washington.edu/doit

Select "AccessCAREERS."

Select "Resources for Students."

Select "precollege students" or "college students," and explore the resources you find.

Select "Search knowledge base." Type in words about topics you would like to learn more about in the "enter search text" box. Select other items if you would like to focus your search, and then select "search."

Tell us one thing you learned about preparing for a career from your exploration of DO-IT's AccessCAREERS website.

E-Community Activity: Using Technology to Enhance Your Social Life

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Using technology to enhance your social life

As a graduate student with a hearing impairment stated, "I think the most successful people with disabilities are those who have developed social skills that allow them to interact effectively with people who don't have disabilities. This includes educating their peers about their disabilities and getting others to understand that they are people first."

The Internet can help you cultivate positive social relationships. Speaking ability and speed of communication are unimportant when communicating via email. Spell check features improve the quality of writing for those whose disabilities impact writing ability.

Below, people with disabilities discuss how technology has helped them achieve a successful social life. Read each statement and see how it applies to you.

  • The computer has become a real asset to my social life. Because of a voice impairment, it is sometimes difficult for me to communicate with people in person. However, with the advent of electronic mail, that is no longer an issue. Electronic mail allows me to communicate with friends without being hampered by my voice. Electronic mail also allows me to keep in contact with family members and friends who live out of state. (high school student with a speech impairment)
  • I have made many, many friends over the Internet—more than I have in "real" life. This includes people who have the same interests as me and who do the same work as I want to get into. (young person with a mobility impairment)
  • The Internet allows me to keep in touch with friends who live far away from me. I have received help from mentors through the 'Net. It is always great to have contact with people who can help you out with a problem or help you find what you are looking for. (college student who is blind)
  • I can communicate with my mother and father without having to pay long-distance charges. I also use a financial program to keep track of my checking account charges. (adult with a visual impairment)
  • I am deaf and I can't hear over the phone. I have to use a special machine and then call the operator. It takes a long time. When I use the computer to communicate, people don't even know that I am deaf. I just type the words. I like that. (high school student who is deaf)
  • I receive help from a mentor via email and spread some wisdom of my own. (college student with a mobility impairment)
  • I find it's difficult to make friends because people judge me before they know me. I'm quite shy, but to people who actually know me, I'm quite the 'hyper-hellion.' I think this has a lot to do with my disability, because it just turns into a label for me to wear. You try to explain your disability, which is part of you, and all you get back is sympathy. Making friends on the Internet allows me to escape my label. (high school student with a mobility impairment)

How has computer technology supported your social life and helped you give and receive help? For example, have you made friends on the Internet? Have you received help from a friend or mentor? Have you been a mentor to someone else?

E-Community Activity: Affirming Success with Technology

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Affirming success with technology

Below are some statements by successful young people and adults with disabilities about using technology. Read each statement and think about how it applies to you.

  • I use technology to help me with my school work.
  • I use technology to help me prepare for a career.
  • I use the Internet to maintain friendships.
  • I use the Internet to communicate with adults who provide me with useful information and/or care about me personally.

How could you make better use of technology to help you succeed in school and/or work?

Chapter Ten

Work Hard. Persevere. Be Flexible.


This thing that we call "failure" is not the falling down, but the staying down.

— Mary Pickford —


Understanding yourself, setting goals, and planning help build important foundations, but action is required to make your dreams come true. To take control of your life it is necessary to choose and take appropriate action. Take charge. Move forward (or at least move!). A pervasive drive for most people is a belief that they have control over important aspects of their lives. A belief in one's own academic ability, for example, is a reliable predictor of academic achievement.

Unless people believe that they can produce desired effects by their actions, they have little incentive to act....[Self-efficacy] beliefs influence aspirations and strength of goal commitments, level of motivation and perseverance in the face of difficulties and setbacks, resilience to adversity, quality of analytic thinking, causal attributes for successes and failures, and vulnerability to stress and depression. (Bandura, Barbaranelli, Caprara, & Pastorelli, 1996, p. 1206).

In order to become more determined, motivated, and ambitious and to find the strength to work harder and persevere, we must believe that those efforts will pay off. How can we develop more positive self-efficacy beliefs?

Our expectations about our efficacy are derived from four sources of information—performance accomplishments, vicarious experience, verbal persuasion, and physiological states (Bandura, Barbaranelli, Caprara, & Pastorelli, 1996). We can alter our self-efficacy beliefs by direct action, by the observation of others (role models), through the guidance of people (mentors) we respect who tell us that we can achieve, and through certain physical states such as relaxation.

Taking action always involves an element of risk. The importance of being willing to take a risk is reflected in this story:

I have a situation that is making me nervous. I am trying to apply for a job as a police records specialist for the city. These are people I have never worked with before and I do not know how accommodating they will be. This is also the first time I have filled out an application for employment, so I don't really know how to make it turn out right. Even if I get approved to take the examination, I do not know whether they will take the time to read the material to me or what will be on the test. If all goes well, I might be working for the city next term. I have had my insecurities when faced with new situations, but I have always been able to work around them, and it has almost always paid off. (college student who is blind)

Successful people need to advocate for themselves, work hard, and persevere.

Successful adults with disabilities demonstrate a willingness to take risks and are resilient when they encounter setbacks, keeping their eye on the ultimate goal. These individuals are also astute in selecting goals for themselves, choosing careers that capitalize on their strengths. They develop creative strategies and techniques to compensate for areas of weakness. Perhaps the most notable characteristics of this group of individuals are persistence and commitment to hard work.

The idea of working hard and long was not something to be applied occasionally but was simply a way of life. Additionally, persistence was emblematic of powerful resiliency, the ability to deal with failure by not giving up and trying again. (Reiff, Gerber, & Ginsberg, 1992, p. 15)

Photo of DO-IT Mentor assisting a DO-IT Scholar on the computer.

Young people need to take action in order to reach goals. They also need to learn from their experiences by reflecting on the outcomes of their actions. Through completing the following online activities, participants will learn the importance of:

  • working hard
  • taking risks
  • taking action
  • persevering
  • learning from experiences, both successes and setbacks
  • communicating effectively
  • anticipating conflict and criticism
  • using strategies to resolve conflicts in constructive ways
  • comparing the outcome of experiences with what was expected
  • reflecting on experiences in order to reach higher levels of success in the future
  • making adjustments and being flexible in order to find success
  • being resilient

The e-mentoring administrator can select appropriate messages from the following examples and send those with titles beginning with Mentor Tip to the mentors only and the E-Community Activity messages to the entire mentoring community. Use these examples to stimulate other ideas for online discussions. It is desirable that, ultimately, most discussions topics come from the mentors and protégés.

Mentor Tip: Actions to Achieve Goals

Send this message to the e-mentors only.


Subject: Mentoring tips on actions to achieve goals

Below, people with disabilities share their thoughts about how caring adults like you can help young people with disabilities learn to take appropriate actions to achieve goals. Reflect on their thoughts as you mentor young people in our online community.

  • The best way for anyone to teach anybody how to assert themselves is to let them do it. (college student with Tourette's syndrome, panic sisorder, and epilepsy)
  • Keep a positive attitude about the kids' goals, and encourage them to meet those goals. When children don't meet them the first time, stay positive and make sure they know that it's not over and they should keep trying. (high school student with a mobility impairment)
  • Offer encouragement to kids, but let them sometimes fail to get their resiliency in shape before they are on their own in the real world. (college student who is blind)
  • I think kids need to realize that everyone experiences failure....It's how you deal with failure that is important. (graduate student with a hearing impairment)
  • Create goals that have built-in flexibility, and allow room for some trial and error. For example, when I decided to pursue a Ph.D., I developed a backup plan just in case it didn't work out. I find having a Plan A and a Plan B (and sometimes a plan C) really helps me adjust when one goal is unattainable. Knowing that I have something to fall back on relieves a lot of anxiety while I'm working toward my original goal. (graduate student with a hearing impairment)
  • Help your child learn to never give up. (high school student with a brain injury)
  • Remind them of times when they have accomplished something and how good it felt. And help them figure out a way to complete the task by suggesting alternate strategies or asking them to come up with alternate methods. (Ph.D. candidate who is blind)
  • Don't get over-protective—and do not let the disability color every expectation. (computer scientist who is blind)
  • Help kids set realistic (but not easy!) goals. Help children with disabilities learn to do things independently in order to gain self-confidence. (college student who is deaf)
  • Be optimistic, never doubt abilities, be positive, and challenge kids. Focus on the positive aspects, and help them set goals THEY want. NEVER, EVER assume they can't do something. (college student with speech and mobility impairments)
  • I think the attitude of family, parents and grandparents, is very important for how a child approaches life. My family always assumed I could do a lot of things, and I've done quite a few. Basically, parents need to support their child, push their child some without forcing the child to do things that are counter to their own dreams, be available for their child to talk to when setbacks occur, and so on. These attitudes need to be present especially in social things because failures there tend to be much more painful and difficult to overcome. (college graduate who is blind)
  • Parents can help their kids accept responsibility by taking responsibility for their own actions. (Ph.D. candidate who is blind)
  • Responsibilities must be given and consequences must be felt. If responsibility isn't given, a child never learns how to handle it. (college graduate who is blind)
  • Always support and advocate for your child, but don't ever let them think that it is not their problem. Include them in meetings you have with teachers, doctors, and other people. That will teach them to advocate for themselves. (high school student with a learning disability)
  • I think a good way to help kids accept criticism better is to always present positive feedback first....then bring in the constructive criticism. (graduate student with a hearing impairment)
  • Encourage children to get out and meet people. They have to make themselves known. Opportunity is much more likely to knock if it knows the address. (college student who is blind)

E-Community Activity: Working Hard

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Working hard

Individuals with disabilities can expect at times to work harder to reach the same goals as their peers without disabilities. As reported by a successful high school student who is blind:

  • I accepted the fact that I must work harder than other students to get the same grade. My grades started to grow gradually to an A average.

Learning to work hard can be an asset in life, as expressed by one successful high school student who is blind:

  • Sometimes I think that all of us with disabilities have an advantage over those who have things come easier to them. Whatever it is we want, we have to want it and then work for it. That necessary desire promotes drive to accomplish, succeed, or achieve. Others around us may be content to float or do the minimum most of the time, but not us. For us, having what everybody else has is an accomplishment, and having tasted success we want to keep succeeding.

How would you explain to a child with a disability that they might have to work harder than other children to reach the same goals without making them feel discouraged?

E-Community Activity: Coping with Stress

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Coping with stress

Stress motivates you to do things. However, it can have a negative impact on your physical and emotional health if you do not cope with it well.

Describe a situation that is stressful for you at school and the strategies you use to cope with it.

E-Community Activity: Being Flexible

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Being flexible

Some adversities in life are beyond your capacity to change no matter how hard you try or how motivated you may be. As pointed out by a college student who is blind:

  • The tough part about being disabled and keeping a positive attitude is to realize that there are things that you want to do that you will probably never get to do. This can take a toll on the mind and damage the self-esteem and positive attitude. The big issue for me when I turned sixteen, and even now, was that I could not drive because of my visual disability.

Once you have set a goal, it is important to be flexible regarding possible modifications to the goal itself as well as finding a path to reach the goal. Below, a person who is blind describes a situation where he needed to be flexible when starting a new job.

  • I have had to make a lot of adjustments while getting settled into my new job as a technical support specialist. This job requires a lot of flexibility as to when the employees work and when they have time off. In my case, I have had also to make certain adjustments regarding transportation and equipment. For example, I was going to take the train to a nearby station and then catch a bus to my work area. The problem is that the bus lets off on the wrong side of the building and I would have to walk through a loading dock where there are a lot of trucks parked. Having to get around all those vehicles would make it difficult to stay on the path. I would need help from a sighted person. Instead, I resorted to using a shuttle provided by the company. It picks me up at the rail station and drops me off at the building where I work.

Give an example of a situation where you should be flexible and one where you should not.

E-Community Activity: Taking Risks

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Taking risks

Taking risks requires that we accept the fact that we might fail. However, as stated by one student who is blind, "Life is nothing without risk. Risks can help a person be successful in the long run." In an electronic discussion, individuals with disabilities shared their risk-taking experiences.

  • One risk I took when I was younger involved driving my wheelchair down a steep hill. It was crazy, but I was a daredevil at the time. Well, it cost me a scratch on my cheek, but it was fun until I reached the bottom. I think it's okay to take a risk as long as it doesn't risk other peoples lives. (high school student with a mobility impairment)
  • This summer I took one of the biggest risks in my life. I was given the opportunity to attend two educational camps, a computer camp and a camp to learn about government. I was afraid to attend the camps because they were geared for nondisabled students. The computer camp was the biggest concern because of getting accessible books and computers. The risk paid off. I learned a lot from both camps and made friends to boot! (college student who is blind)
  • A very big risk that I took was my work at a museum. I have very poor people skills. It's obvious to whomever comes in contact with me. I am also wobbly mentally and physically—mentally in that I am unsure of myself and physically in that I can topple at any moment. I had to face the risks of dealing with people and tripping on something and ruining a fragile exhibit every day. The initial job was for class credit. I took the added risk of extending my job over the summer. That added the worry of transportation. I am happy to say that despite these risks I did the job and I did it well. I gained friends, experience, and something to put on a resume. (college student with mobility and health impairments)
  • I keep going when people tell me I can't. I am not afraid to try things and I don't give up. My parents took me everywhere and I did everything like a normal kid. I have a good friend from kindergarten who is able bodied and she knows me so well that we do all sorts of stuff that people might not think I could do, but we come up with a flexible plan and we do it. (high school student with mobility and speech impairments)

Describe an experience where you took a risk to achieve something you wanted. What was the outcome? What did you learn from the experience?

E-Community Activity: Taking Action

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Taking action

A group of successful individuals with disabilities offered the following advice to teens with disabilities about taking action to reach their goals. Read the list and then send a message to our group with a statement you would add to the list.

  • Nothing worthwhile comes without risk. Without risk success cannot be achieved.
  • Resiliency is key to success in life. Things will not always go the way you plan, but you have to bounce back from whatever difficulties you encounter and get back on track.
  • Keep trying. Things don't always work out the first time around. Think of other options for achieving the same goal, or ask others (family members, friends, teachers, etc.) for ideas on how you can achieve your goal. Stretch yourself. Do things you never thought possible.
  • Work at your own pace, keep positive, and you can do anything you set your mind to.
  • Do not pity yourself for what cards you have been dealt. It happened....now move on.
  • That moment of insecurity is worth the achievement in the end. It is important to keep that in mind throughout life.
  • Keep on with life despite unfortunate responses from people. To let other people get you down and make you cease to be an active participant in your own life is to let them win. To live life passively is to deny one's full capability of existence. Parents and teachers can help, but this is something you have to find within.
  • Be creative and flexible.
  • It is important to develop networking skills. Almost anyone you meet can be a prospective resource. Learn how to make and capitalize on friendships and follow up. If you do use a person as a resource, call or send a letter to say thank you.
  • DO IT........DON'T QUIT.

E-Community Activity: Learning From Experiences

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Learning from experiences

Successful people learn from their experiences. Once an action is taken, they evaluate the outcome, and, regardless of whether the outcome is positive or negative, they ask what they can learn from the experience that will increase opportunities for success in the future. A few strategies that contribute to successful learning from experiences are the following:

  • Reflect on the experience and take with you those things that can help you reach higher levels of success in the future.
  • Compare the outcome of the experience with what you expected. If they are different, analyze why. What can you learn? How will you move forward?
  • Compare your performance to your expected performance. If they are different, analyze why. How can you continue to improve your performance in similar activities?
  • Celebrate success internally and externally.
  • Learn from both successes and failures/setbacks.
  • Make adjustments in order to increase your chances for success in the future.

Select one of the strategies listed above and tell about how you have applied it or can apply it in the future.

E-Community Activity: Learning from Work Experiences

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Subject: Learning from work experiences

Every experience in life offers opportunities to learn. For example, students enrolled in internships, cooperative education, volunteer work, and other work-based learning programs gain valuable experiences that can help them obtain and succeed in future jobs. In an online discussion, people with a variety of disabilities discussed the value of work-based learning experiences that occurred while they were still in school. Part of their dialogue follows.

  • I had a project my senior year of college where I built and maintained a website for my church. I'm still maintaining it even after college. It let me gain experience. It is important for ANY student to do this, and it is especially beneficial to people with disabilities because they sometimes need more help to overcome employers' biases.
  • Employers want education and experience.
  • Working has given me motivation to return to school and do it well this time. For four years I've been working entry-level positions, and I now have a better understanding of where I want to be in life and the "direction" that I want to take. I also feel that I have a better understanding of the job market and how things work in a highly corporate environment. I wish everyone could feel the motivation and excitement to learn what I have after four years of poverty and $5.50-an-hour jobs.
  • Interpersonal skills, communication skills, and awareness of one's strengths and limits are just some benefits that can be gained through work-based experiences.
  • I was an executive intern with a local meteorologist during my senior year in high school and then worked for two summers for the Assistant State Climatologist of Colorado. These experiences strengthened my desire to go into atmospheric science research. I also learned that connections can really help you get a job! And I practiced articulating my needs when necessary.
  • I have some pretty strong viewpoints about work-based learning experiences. I did one last summer, and, even though it was frustrating, it taught me some lessons that I would not have learned otherwise. First of all, I learned that we need to be able to focus on more than one task at a time. Second, I learned that one can usually do something that one sets one's mind to.
  • Work-based learning experiences give you a chance to practice and develop work skills that are not taught in the classroom (personal interaction with others, teamwork, learning how to take criticism, etc.).
  • An internship gives students a chance to problem-solve how they will use or transfer an accommodation used in school to a work setting....in a nonthreatening environment. You learn what works for you, and you learn what doesn't work for you. You may have good experiences or bad experiences, but in my opinion....the bad experiences are sometimes more valuable than the good experiences. And it's fun!
  • My senior year, I had an intern job at a local newspaper. My internship wasn't a paying one, but I got high school credit for it since I did it during school hours. If you get paid, great, extra cash won't hurt, but if not, it's still good to just have the experience.
  • This year has been the first time I've been in a work-based learning opportunity. I was introduced into working in a corporate environment. I've learned to be more responsible and independent.

Describe a work experience you have had—paid or unpaid; long or short in length; at school, at home, at a company or job site—and tell what you learned from the experience.

E-Community Activity: Understanding the Value of Work Experiences

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Subject: Understanding the value of work experiences

Work-based learning is an important part of a person's education. Below is a list of reasons why work experience is important. It was written by a successful person with a disability. Think about how what is said applies or does not apply to your life.

  • It can help you figure out what you DON'T want to do. A lot of people go through their education with a romantic vision of what career they will pursue after graduation. They often picture themselves as prepared, having taken numerous courses within the occupation's subject area. They are often very disappointed. You may not always enjoy the "practice" as well as the "theory." I have met all sorts of people who hated their jobs but loved their major.
  • It can help you determine which accommodations work best for you. The accommodations you use in school may not work at the work site. Your technology may not interface with the employer's. You need to become a master of your accommodations. Work-based learning gives you the opportunity to practice accommodating yourself....When you are applying for your "real job," you will know what accommodations you need, as well as where and how to get them.
  • It offers a low-risk, nonthreatening opportunity to disclose your disability to an employer. Disclosure of disability can be a nerve-wracking process for both the student and the employer. Interviews for internships and other experiences can help you try out ways of talking about your disability.
  • You can apply what you're learning in school to a real-world situation. This makes learning fun and offers a whole new perspective on the subject area.
  • It enables you to learn and practice skills not learned in a typical classroom. You can sometimes get academic credit for it. You can sometimes get paid for it. You can network with potential future employers. You can prove to an employer who has never had an employee with a disability that you are capable, thus creating a future position for yourself or opening the door for a friend.
  • You might have the opportunity to work with state-of-the-art equipment not available on campus. Employers want education AND experience. Just a degree simply won't cut it. If you want a job when you graduate, this is the best way to get experience in your field.

Why do you feel it is important to have work experience before completing school?

E-Community Activity: Being Resilient

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Subject: Being resilient

"Resiliency" is the ability to bounce back and keep trying after failures or other difficult situations. Successful people are resilient. They don't let the small stuff get them down, and they don't give up when faced with setbacks, failures, or other difficulties. They learn from both success and failure. Below, successful young people and adults describe how events and people in their lives helped them learn to be resilient.

  • Whenever as a child I told my parents that I could not do something, they reminded me that I could do it as long as I believed in my ability to do it, and they usually were right. If I did not succeed, my parents pointed out alternate methods for achieving the goal. Now, I am motivated to continue to try something as long as I can think of other options for completing the task at hand. When I run out of options, it is sometimes tempting to give up, but I have also learned that new options sometimes open up with time. (Ph.D. candidate who is blind)
  • There have always been things I've wanted, and I couldn't get them if I didn't try again once I failed. That was true throughout school. In math, I had to do many things by slower methods than other kids used. For example, in precalculus they all had graphing calculators, but I couldn't use one. I did as much of the work as I could because I wanted to learn, I wanted good grades, and I wanted that class on my transcript for college. (college graduate who is blind)
  • What helped me to be resilient was the need to survive. I didn't attend school until the fifth grade due to numerous surgeries. The first few days in the classroom at the age of eleven were a shock. The physically and mentally handicapped soon learn to ignore the slings and arrows of misfortune. I lead a very normal life despite a birth defect in the lower spine. The people in my life who toughened me included my mother, my uncle, a doctor, and, from time to time, an understanding, compassionate teacher in high school and college. (retired counselor with mobility impairment)
  • I was motivated to reach for higher standards when I lost my sight four years ago. It made me try harder and forced me not to pity myself. My vision teacher pushed me to give it my all. He made me believe in my abilities and myself. He raised my self-esteem and pushed me into taking the specialized high school exam. Without him, I would not be in the position I am now. He played an integral part in my higher standards being reached. (college student who is blind)
  • Joining and participating in the DO-IT program was probably the most helpful. They did more than just teach me about online communications, etc. They have also helped me solve problems that were college- and career-related. (college student who is blind)
  • Say what you will about spite; it's a great emotion. My parents never believed in me (I'm sure that they'd say otherwise, but they would be lying). They don't trust me, and they really don't care what I do, so long as it meets their preconceived notions of who I am. So I decided to succeed, no matter what, just to spite them. (college student with mobility impairment)
  • The primary source of any resilience in me is extreme hope for the future and a sense of mission. In this, my father played a large part. When he gets going, I doubt there is anyone capable of more passion and exuberance. (college student with a mobility impairment)
  • Beginning with catechism and my mother's insistence on reading Bible stories to me and my brother, I fast developed a theological grounding for subsequent resilience. (college student with a mobility impairment)
  • Adults taught me that life is full of obstacles and hurdles. Sometimes I make it over the hurdle the first time around, sometimes I don't. I learned to accept failure and to learn from my mistakes. I use what I learned to help me get over the hurdle the next time. I learned that failure is not always a bad thing. In fact, that's how we develop, by learning what works and what doesn't. (graduate student with a hearing impairment)
  • One source of resilience, the joy of discovery, I inherited from both my parents. Early in my childhood I was continuously encouraged to learn. And as a quirk in their generally traditional parenting style, they never pressured me or my brother to achieve high grades in school. Thus I developed this joy intrinsically, from the inside out—something that is extremely important. (college student with a mobility impairment)

How have parents, siblings, friends, mentors, teachers, or other people in your life helped you (or NOT helped you) learn to be resilient?

E-Community Activity: Affirming Success

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Subject: Affirming success

Some positive affirmations from successful people with disabilities are listed below. Read each statement and think about your level of agreement with it.

  • I know my strengths and challenges.
  • I know what is important to me.
  • I know what I need versus what I prefer.
  • I know what options I have.
  • I am an independent thinker.
  • I am optimistic about my future.
  • I care about my school, my community, and other people.
  • I act on my own convictions.
  • I recognize and respect my rights and responsibilities.
  • I can resist negative peer pressure.
  • I am comfortable with my disability.
  • I take my disability into account when I set goals and develop strategies, but I realize that it is only a small part of my identity.
  • I can deal with the negative stereotypes of others in a constructive way.

Share with us an additional affirmation statement that is true about you now or that you would like to be true about yourself in the future.

Chapter Eleven

Develop a support network. Look to family, friends, and teachers.


Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.

— Jane Howard —


Photo of three DO-IT Scholars engaged in a group hug while smiling.

Successful adults with disabilities report that they benefited in their youth from opportunities for inclusion, high expectations from adults, disability-related accommodations that de-emphasized their differences, promotion of autonomy, encouragement of friendships, and support from caring adults. On the other hand, their progress was inhibited by segregation, atypical treatment that highlighted their differences, restricted opportunities for independence, social isolation, and social rejection (Powers, Singer, & Todis, 1996).

Environmental factors have a major impact on the development of self-determination skills in young people with disabilities. Relationships with people and activities in which they are engaged can serve to support or obstruct their movement toward self-determination. For example, a parent who provides a son with opportunities to make choices, no matter how limited, is supporting the development of self-determination skills in that child. In contrast, a parent who overprotects her daughter is obstructing her development of self-determination skills. Of all the environmental supports in a young person's life, relationships with others can present the greatest barrier to self-determination (Field & Hoffman, 1994a, b). As reported by an accomplished scientist who is blind:

Some adults helped me a lot, but more of them caused barriers to my development. Some of that is so terrible it won't make it into anyone's book. Everyone steered me away from science.

Without supportive relationships, some people with disabilities, like the person quoted above, still manage to achieve self-determined, successful lives. However, too many simply learn to let others make decisions for them. "Learned helplessness" is passive behavior that can result from overprotection, from an environment where a child has few opportunities to make choices, and from a child's repeated failed attempts to control her life. Eventually, she avoids new challenges and accepts a life controlled by others.

Adults can help young people lead self-determined lives by being sensitive to the language they use, promoting positive relationships with adults, encouraging friendships, promoting participation in healthy activities, and giving young people choices.

Participating in clubs, organizations, and sports can contribute to a successful life. Adults can help young people with disabilities get involved. These efforts will pay off in helping them find happiness for themselves and contribute in a positive way to the lives of others. People who are content with their lives are usually involved in volunteer activities; enjoy helping others; have a tendency to protect siblings, friends, or pets; and care about the plight of other people (Katz, 1997).

Photo of DO-IT Scholar consulting DO-IT director Sheryl Burgstahler on a computer issue while in the computer lab with other DO-IT Scholars.

Positive relationships and participation in activities contribute to a successful, happy life. After young people have completed the online activities in this chapter, they will know the value of:

  • positive relationships with adults
  • engagement in social activities
  • positive peer relationships
  • participation in clubs, organizations, sports, and other activities
  • opportunities to contribute
  • opportunities to make choices
  • negotiation, compromise, and win-win decisions
  • opportunities to verbalize plans and practice self-determination steps

The e-mentoring administrator can select appropriate messages from the following examples and send the Mentor Tip messages to the mentors only and the E-Community Activity messages to the entire mentoring community. Use these examples to stimulate other ideas for online discussions. It is desirable that, ultimately, most discussion topics come from the mentors and protégés.

Mentor Tip: Teen Support

Send this message to the mentors only.


Subject: Mentoring tips on teen support

Adults can help young people lead self-determined lives by being sensitive to the language they use, by promoting positive relationships with adults and friends, by encouraging participation in activities, and by giving young people choices. The following story demonstrates the significant effect supportive adults can have on young people with disabilities.

Those adults who have contributed to my success tended to either create opportunities for further development for me or help me to pursue a certain activity by coming up with creative adaptations, by implementing my suggestions for adaptations, or simply by encouraging me. For example, throughout my childhood, two relatives of mine who functioned as grandmothers made an effort to let me touch everything interesting around their house, in their yard, and on walks and visits to other places. These experiences supplemented my exposure to plants, animals, sculptures, and many other things. On the academic side, my first- and second-grade teacher gave me extra work that furthered my education. She was great at responding to the individual needs of students. In contrast, my fifth grade math teacher asked me to just listen instead of participating in class when we went over a test on which I had received a high grade. This made me want to fail the next test, so that I would be allowed to participate in the class discussion. (I did not fail the next test, thanks in part to my parents' intervention). In graduate school, a professor teaching a class on reading and drawing weather maps suggested that I come to his office once a week so that he could discuss the material with me. He made it possible for me to succeed in this required class. (Ph.D. candidate who is blind)

Mentor Tip: Supportive Environment

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Subject: Mentoring tips on supportive environment

As we create a supportive environment for young people, consider the advice offered by successful individuals with disabilities.

  • Many small steps equal a mile. Don't just recognize people's miles; celebrate each "step of success." (adult who is blind)
  • Have patience. This will not be easy. You will have to learn a new language to communicate with teenagers. (high school student with dyslexia and attention deficit disorder)
  • It is important for them to have someone to talk to about what is going on in their lives and to receive encouragement when they lose confidence in themselves. (college student who is blind)
  • Don't create a relationship of excessive dependence. Teach all of your children to be independent from an early age. This will benefit them in their adult lives. (college student who is deaf)
  • Don't be so adult that children can't connect with you. Be available to talk about any topic, and be willing to both be serious and have fun. (college graduate who is blind)
  • Encourage children with disabilities to lead the most normal life possible. (retired counselor with mobility impairment)
  • Teach them the skills required to participate in a career. (college student who is blind)
  • Remind them of what they're capable of. Sometimes it's hard to see outside of yourself to know all of the possibilities. This is when feedback from respected people in one's life is critical....especially from mentors. (employee with a mobility impairment)
  • Support their dreams. (young person with a mobility impairment)
  • Help them get involved in their school. It can lead to new friendships and experiences. (college student who is blind)

Mentor Tip: Self-Determination Support

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Subject: Mentoring tips on self-determination support

Adults can further or hinder self-determination in young people. They can help create environments for a child—in the home, in the classroom, and in the community—that nurture the development of self-determination skills. Adults can model self-determined behavior and interact with children in ways that promote self-determination. Reflecting upon the following questions may help guide you as you support young people with disabilities.

  • How can you apply self-determination steps in your life? How can you best share your experiences with the young people with whom you interact?
  • What current factors in the classroom, home, church, and community encourage or discourage young people from being self-determined? How can these environmental factors be adjusted to support the development of self-determination skills?
  • How can you assure that young people with disabilities can fully participate in school, church, and community activities? How can you encourage them to do so?
  • How can you provide opportunities for young people to contribute to their family, school, or religious community?
  • How can you encourage young people to express their feelings? How can you be a better listener to assure a teenager that you understand what they are saying to you?
  • How can you encourage young people to understand their own strengths and challenges?
  • How can you encourage young people to set their own goals?
  • How can you encourage young people to take action and accept the consequences of their actions?
  • How can you help young people learn from the outcomes of their actions?
  • How can you model communication patterns that support self-determination in the young people with whom you interact?
  • How can you help a young person be actively involved in planning decisions as they transition to adulthood?
  • What special programs could be put in place in your school, church, or community center to help young people, including those with disabilities, develop and apply self-determination skills?

Mentor Tip: Teen Relationships with Adults

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Subject: Mentoring tips on teen relationships with adults

Successful people often report that while they were growing up, they had positive, supportive relationships with a few adults—relatives, neighbors, teachers, church members, and other mentors. Successful young people and adults with disabilities made the following comments about the value—personal, social, spiritual, academic, and professional—of their positive relationships with adults. You'll hear more in my next message to the whole community. Think of what you can contribute to this conversation that would be beneficial to our younger participants.

  • My mother has always encouraged me to do better in all aspects of my life. It doesn't matter whether it's academic, physical, or art. I am visually impaired, and I am also a great artist. I am thinking about starting an art magazine in my senior year of high school, and my mother backs me up one hundred percent. She sees that I have a vision problem, and she understands the difficulties I have. But she encourages me to do things even when it is hard. (high school student who has a visual impairment)
  • Besides my parents, there have been two adults who influenced me personally, socially, and academically. They helped me overcome my disability and become who I am today. They transformed a reclusive person who didn't believe in himself into a driving, determined individual who is confident and who can handle adversity. The first of these adults I met in the beginning of eighth grade when I first lost my sight. He was a paraprofessional. A "para" is someone the Board of Education gives to students who need someone to help them with mobility and/or note taking. I needed someone to help me with both. When I first met him, I was nervous, apprehensive. I was just getting used to the fact that I had lost my sight. I was shy and reticent. Between class assignments he and I would talk about life and his experiences. He taught me a lot about people and how they can act. He became the brother I never had, someone I could trust. He left me a better person than I was when we first met. (high school student who has a visual impairment)
  • My parents have always been encouraging. They never let me take the easy way out. Developing a positive relationship with an adult is important because as a kid, your knowledge and experience is limited. (college student with a mobility impairment)
  • A couple of years ago I met a woman who has a little vision and is very interested in genetics. We first met because of these reasons. However, our relationship has since grown amazingly. We can talk about many things, commiserate, laugh, and just enjoy being with each other. She pushes me, too, but she also listens to me. She is no longer just a mentor but a good friend, and while I don't always agree with the things she says, I always think about them. (college graduate who is blind)
  • When I was in third grade, I was just beginning to understand what my learning disability was and how it would impact my life. I was extremely frustrated academically because everything was so hard. I just did not get it. Sometimes I would think that I was just stupid. Having a special tutor was the best thing to happen to me then. She knew that I was intelligent and she showed me that. She not only helped me make a quantum leap academically, but she also discovered who the real me was. When I first came to her, I was sad, angry, and frustrated. From her I learned not only a sense of self and an academic confidence but also an MO (modus operandi) for life. Hard work does pay off. And yes, I will succeed. (high school student with Dyslexia and Attention Deficit Disorder)

E-Community Activity: Developing Relationships with Adults

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Subject: Developing relationships with adults

Successful people often report that while they were growing up, they had positive, supportive relationships with a few adults. These could be relatives, neighbors, teachers, church members, and other mentors. Successful people with disabilities made the following comments about the value—personal, social, spiritual, academic, and professional—of their positive relationships with adults.

  • My aide in high school would not let me quit, and she pushed me into doing things that I thought I could not do, such as going on overnight trips, working on the computer, and being friendly to the other students in school. (college student with mobility and speech impairments)
  • I remember an international business teacher who helped me "grow" in high school. He never ever quit believing in me. He said, "If you want it—make it happen." He believed in me, even when my parents doubted and other teachers were sort of distant. He never once downplayed my ability. With his "What do you want to do next?" questions he challenged me to push the envelope further. Believing in someone is the first step in helping them achieve their dreams. (college student with a mobility impairment)
  • I grew up in a family of four kids, and my parents never gave me any slack just because I had a disability. I was doing all the same chores everyone else was doing (even if it was dragging the vacuum all around the house!). They always pushed the idea of self-pity out the door and never once felt sorry for me for anything! They treated me like everyone else, not like their "child with a disability." Because they treated me like everyone else, I strove to be like everyone else and to live up to the norms of what people my age were doing, whether it was singing in the choir, learning to drive, or swimming. (college student with a mobility impairment)
  • I have had a very positive relationship with my orientation and mobility teacher for a very long period of my life. She taught me to work hard in school and to strive for the goals I set for myself. My grandmother has also been a positive influence in my life, as she has given me encouragement and has helped me adopt a religious faith at a young age. (college student who is blind)

How have relatives, neighbors, teachers, church members, mentors, or other caring adults helped (or NOT helped) you achieve success personally, socially, academically, or spiritually?

E-Community Activity: Working with Adults

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Subject: Working with adults

Adults can help young people achieve success. However, it is a two-way street. The actions of young people can either help or hinder the ability of adults to help them. Statements of advice to teens from successful people with disabilities are listed below. Think about whether you agree or disagree with each statement.

  • In dealing with your parents, try to look at both your point of view and your parents' point of view. I know that this is hard to do.
  • Always stay calm in a disagreement. Impossible, right? Yes, but it's worth a try.
  • If you and your parents get in a fight, wait until they cool off and then tell them that you still love them. Trust me, this works.
  • Allow time to really see what the adults are like, and then, if you feel okay with them, go ahead and open up to them. The results may be better than you may think!
  • Positive relationships with adults can provide you with encouragement and help you build confidence and self-esteem.

What advice would you give other teens about what THEY can do to develop positive relationships with adults?

E-Community Activity: Participating in Activities

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Subject: Participating in activities

Many adults who are successful participated in clubs, organizations, sports, or other activities in their schools and/or communities when they were teens. Below are examples of how young people stay involved in their communities.

  • The primary activities I have been involved in have had to do with promotion of bike helmets. (high school student with brain injury)
  • I am in my school's band and on our Youth Leadership Team. In the past, I was part of the speech team and the Student Council. Being a part of clubs has given me confidence and boosted my self-esteem. I enjoy music, and think it is an awesome feeling to be able to go out and be a part of my school's band to cheer on the sports teams and to contribute to a music concert. (college student who is blind)
  • I have participated in flag corps/marching band, winterguard, High School/High Tech, and Beta Club. They have given me a chance to see what it is like to work with different kinds of people. (college student with a learning disability)
  • I have been riding in the Little Bit Special Riders, a horseback riding program for disabled people, since I was four years old. In grade school I would always have something to share at show and tell that I was proud of. It was something I could do that not all of my friends could do, and they all thought it was so cool. I made a lot of friends, both disabled and not, that I have now known for a long time. (high school student with mobility and speech impairments)
  • I am involved in the drama club at my school. (high school student with a mobility impairment)
  • I have been involved in internships. They give me experiences that are needed for jobs. I've also been part of a city hall committee. This helps me know how professional life is. (college student with mobility and health impairments)
  • I was involved in sports in high school—as a manager of the football team for four years and even lettering in the sport—and also I was on the wrestling team and lettered in that three years. I loved being a part of a team and supporting and being supported in working hard toward team and personal goals. I loved the camaraderie that the teams offered. (college student who has seizures)

Describe an activity you have been involved in and why it has been important in your life.

E-Community Activity: Being a Good Friend

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Subject: Being a good friend

Friends can contribute to fun times and provide a boost when you're down. Positive relationships can enhance our health and well-being. What does being a friend mean to you? How can you be a better friend to others and to yourself?

Mentor Tip: Friendships

Send this message to the mentors only.


Subject: Mentoring tips on friendships

Successful individuals with disabilities have a lot to say about the importance of having a positive social life. However, they sometimes face challenges in developing friendships. For example, here is a comment from a student who is blind:

  • Blind people face the particular challenge of not being able to walk up to someone with whom they would like to talk unless they hear their voice or the person introduces himself or herself. In the dining hall, for example, I always asked someone to help me find a seat, but that person would not necessarily know the people I liked to sit with, so it was a game of chance. Sometimes I met new people, sometimes I happened to sit next to good friends, and sometimes I was unable to join in the conversations around me. However, by making friends in certain interest groups and arranging to meet friends for a meal, I was able to keep in touch with the people I cared about.

Sometimes people with disabilities face attitudinal barriers, as pointed out by this student with a disability:

  • My disability gets in the way of getting friendly with some students, but they weren't worth knowing anyway. The others, who accepted me as an equal, were the ones I stuck with.

However, most people with disabilities find the same enjoyment with an active social life as others. As another student wrote:

  • Social life is imperative for your own sanity and for learning how to interact with people.

Reflect on these issues as we help teens in our e-community develop friendships.

E-Community Activity: Developing Friendships

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Subject: Developing friendships

Successful individuals with disabilities have a lot to say about the importance of having a positive social life. They value relationships with other people. Below, young people with a wide variety of disabilities share their opinions about the value of a positive social life in college. Think about your level of agreement or the relevance to your life.

  • I can't stress enough the importance of at least trying to get out and be involved. It really doesn't matter in what—clubs, teams, friends, whatever. It won't be easy, but it's worth it.
  • I found people to be a lot more open in college than in high school. I made most of my friends in classes, in the dining hall, in clubs, and at the Lutheran Ministry at my university. I am still in touch with several people I met during my college years.
  • School consists of both social and academic learning. As I look back on my undergraduate days, I remember a lot more social times with other people than I do lectures or exams. And I'm not really a people person, either. I know I learned a lot from the social end of things. Some of that learning was painful, because when you make friends, people sometimes give feedback that you need but wouldn't otherwise get about behavior and attitude. This is part of people relating to one another and causes necessary growth. Mostly, though, socializing is fun, and being by yourself is lonely.
  • The key is to balance your social life and school.
  • For me, the debate team and the foreign language house provided communities where I felt accepted and had a good time.
  • Living in a dorm helped immensely by immersing me in the college social life.
  • My social life revolves mostly around people on my college dorm floor. I'm in Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, too.
  • A lot of my social life resulted from my career goals. I wanted to be a programmer and hung around the computer lab—not exactly beer and pizza, but it was very social. There was great interaction and sharing of ideas and concepts. I think I learned more from the other students than from my professors.
  • There are many strategies to a fulfilling social life in college. You can join a fraternity or a sorority on campus or live in a dorm. Another way is to join a club that matches your interests. I made a lot of friends by joining a club.
  • I made one good friend in a class we were taking together. Every week, we got together and worked on the homework.
  • I understand that for some people making friends is not as easy as it is for others. But if you treat people in a friendly manner, they are going to treat you the same, whereas if you feel yourself so different from others that you don't talk to them, you find yourself totally out of place. Everyone is the same and different too. This is what is so good about the world.

Why is it important (or unimportant) for you to have a satisfying social life in high school and/or college? What special challenges do you face and what strategies do you use regarding the development of a successful social life?

E-Community Activity: Locating a Career OneStop

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Locating a Career OneStop

Many states have Career OneStops that give information on a wide range of programs for jobs and training. These centers are sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor and state and local organizations. More information can be found at

www.careeronestop.org

Explore the resources. Locate a Career OneStop near you by using the "State Gateway."

How might a Career OneStop help you prepare for or obtain employment?

E-Community Activity: Finding Resources and Support

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Finding resources and support

No one achieves success alone. The comments below provide examples of how successful individuals have found, accessed, and used resources to help them achieve success personally, socially, academically, and professionally.

  • Most of the resources I use I found through word of mouth (from parents, friends, and others I know), from newsletters, or from the Internet. Sometimes I find out about something useful by accident, and at other times I ask around or look on the Internet for a specific resource. I often ask others whose opinion I respect for advice, especially when I am making a major decision. I subscribe to a few newsletters and magazines that provide information on topics that interest me and keep lists of useful websites on my home page. (Ph.D. candidate who is blind)
  • I ask questions. (high school student with a brain injury)
  • Resources I use are people (parents, friends, teachers, mentors, etc.), agencies, financial resources....I have found so many different resources from so many people. As for my technical resources, I have gotten assistance from the local Educational Services District, counselors at the University of Washington, and the adaptive technology instructors at the Commission for the Blind and a community college. As for my social and financial resources, my mother and father have referred me to some of those as well as my counselor at the Commission for the Blind. Online communication has also really helped me find resources. When I use online resources, I can download information to my hard drive and translate it into Braille if I need to. (college student who is blind)
  • One way in which I find resources is by being active and involved. Organizations for the blind and campus disability services offices are both good resources and good places to learn about other resources. (college student who is blind)
  • One of my resources is my best friend. When I take her along with me, I can tell that people who don't know me feel more comfortable being around me. My friend and I think that there isn't a way that I can't be a part of what she is doing. Being with her is one of the ways I use a natural resource. (high school student with mobility and speech impairments)

Describe one way you have gained (or could gain) access to resources and support to help you in high school or college.

Part III: Where To Go From Here

The final section of this book suggests activities that allow protégés in e-mentoring communities to share their experiences and insights and provides resources for administrators supporting participants in ongoing electronic mentoring communities.

The entire content of this book can be found at www.washington.edu/doit/Mentor. Use this electronic version to cut, paste, and modify appropriate content for distribution to participants in your electronic community; please acknowledge the source.


In Chapter Twelve e-mentoring community members encourage teens to share their insights and experiences on the DO-IT website.

Chapter Thirteen includes sample forms that can be used in your electronic mentoring program.

Chapter Fourteen includes lists of online resources and a bibliography.

An Index can help you locate specific content and activities in this book.

Chapter Twelve

Share Your Story.


A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

— Chinese Proverb —


Photo of two DO-IT Scholars collaborate at a computer to problem solve.

Students with disabilities benefit when caring adults create environments that help them develop successful, self-determined lives. By following guidelines presented in this book, teachers, parents, and mentors can help students with disabilities learn to do the following:

  • Define success for themselves.
  • Set personal, academic, and career goals, keeping their expectations high.
  • Understand their abilities and disabilities and play to their strengths.
  • Develop strategies to reach their goals.
  • Use technology as an empowering tool.
  • Work hard. Persevere. Be flexible.
  • Develop a support network.

These seven steps were developed from the communications of successful people with disabilities who contributed content for this book as part of the DO-IT e-mentoring community.

Administrators of other mentoring communities should let the students and mentors in the community know that they too are becoming experts about self-determination and success strategies and that others can benefit from what they have learned. The following messages can be sent to protégés and mentors to encourage them to share their own stories and advice. The program administrator could compile the responses and share them anonymously on a program website, like the DO-IT community has done in the "Participant Responses" list at www.washington.edu/doit/Mentor. Administrators can submit participant responses for possible inclusion on the DO-IT website by sending the messages to doit@u.washington.edu.

E-Community Activity: Share Your Views on Success

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Share your views: Define success for yourself.

Send your views on one or more of the following to [email address]. Some of the responses may be compiled and shared anonymously in [a program newsletter/publication/website].

[name]
E-mentoring Administrator

1a) Define what "success" means to you.

1b) What advice would you give teens with disabilities about defining and achieving success?

1c) What advice would you give to parents and other adults to help them help kids with disabilities define and achieve success?

1d) Share your views about the importance of maintaining a positive attitude.

E-Community Activity: Share Your Views on Goals

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Share your views: Set personal, academic, and career goals.

Send your views on one or more of the following issues to [email address]. Some of the responses may be compiled and shared anonymously in [a program newsletter/publication/website].

[name]
E-mentoring Administrator

2a) Tell how you set personal, academic, and/or career goals.

2b) Tell how people have helped you set goals.

2c) What advice would you give to parents, teachers, and mentors as they try to help young people with disabilities set personal, academic, and/or career goals and keep their expectations high?

E-Community Activity: Share Your Views on Abilities

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Share your views: Understand your abilities and disabilities, and play to your strengths.

Send your views on one or more of the following issues to [email address]. Some of the responses may be compiled and shared anonymously in [a program newsletter/publication/website].

[name]
E-mentoring Administrator

3a) Tell how you understand your abilities and disabilities and how this understanding helps you plan for success.

3b) What advice would you give to parents, teachers, and mentors as they try to help young people understand their abilities and disabilities and play to their strengths?

E-Community Activity: Share Your Views on Strategies

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Share your views: Develop strategies to reach your goals.

Send your views on one or more of the following issues to [email address]. Some of the responses may be compiled and shared anonymously in [a program newsletter/publication/website].

[name]
E-mentoring Administrator

4a) Describe a specific strategy you use to reach your goals.

4b) What advice would you give to parents, teachers, and mentors as they help young people with disabilities develop strategies to reach their goals?

4c) What advice would you give teens with disabilities about strategies for reaching their goals?

E-Community Activity: Share Your Views on Technology

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Share your views: Use technology as an empowering tool.

Send your views on one or more of the following issues to [email address]. Some of the responses may be compiled and shared anonymously in [a program newsletter/publication/website].

[name]
E-mentoring Administrator

5a) Tell what technology, including computers, adaptive technology, and the Internet, helps you maximize your independence and productivity in school or work.

5b) What advice would you give to parents and teachers about encouraging students with disabilities to use computers in school?

5c) Tell how computer technology supports your personal and social life and helps you give and receive help from others. For example, have you made friends on the Internet? Have you received help from someone, such as a mentor? Have you been a peer helper or mentor to someone else?

E-Community Activity: Share Your Views on Working Hard

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Share your views: Work hard; persevere; be flexible.

Send your views on one or more of the following issues to [email address]. Some of the responses may be compiled and shared anonymously in [a program newsletter/publication/website].

[name]
E-mentoring Administrator

6a) Share your views on the need for people with disabilities to work hard, persevere, and be flexible.

6b) What advice would you give to parents, teachers, and others about how they can encourage children with disabilities to work hard, persevere, and be flexible?

6c) Tell about a situation where you were willing to take a risk in order to achieve a goal. What was the outcome?

E-Community Activity: Share Your Views on Support Network

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.


Subject: Share your views: Develop a support network.

Send your views on one or more of the following issues to [email address]. Some of the responses may be compiled and shared anonymously in [a program newsletter/publication/website].

[name]
E-mentoring Administrator

7a) Tell how relatives, neighbors, teachers, church members, and/or other caring adults have helped you achieve success personally, socially, academically, or otherwise. You can also share stories about how adults in your life hindered your ability to succeed.

7b) What advice would you give to kids about the importance of developing positive relationships with caring adults in their lives?

7c) Tell about some of the activities you have been involved in and why they have been important in your life.

7d) What advice would you give parents, teachers, and mentors about encouraging young people with disabilities?

7e) Share your views on the importance of a satisfying social life. What special issues face students with disabilities interested in developing a social life? What strategies can be used to create a successful social life?

Chapter Thirteen

Sample Documents


It's not the load that breaks you down, it's the way you carry it.

— Lena Horne —


Photo of two DO-IT Scholars talk through an assignment in a classroom.

Consult legal experts in your organization or community to establish guidelines and informed consent forms that deal appropriately with child safety issues. DO-IT developed the sample documents contained in this chapter. You can modify them to meet the specific needs of your program. They are available online, along with the other content of this book at www.washington.edu/doit/Mentor.

 

 

 

Sample Mentor Application

Complete the form below, attaching additional pages if necessary.

Name:
Postal Address:
City:
State:
Zip Code:
Home Phone:
Email:

  1. Are you currently a college student? If yes, what institution do you attend? What is your year in school and field(s) of study?
  2. What is your occupation? Are you currently employed? If so, who is your employer? What is your position?
  3. Please list any postsecondary degrees you have completed.
  4. Have you ever been a mentor before? If so, please describe your experience(s).
  5. Have you had personal or professional experiences with disabilities that you could share with participants? If yes, please describe.
  6. Do you have any hobbies or special skills that you think will benefit our participants?
  7. Do you speak a language other than English? If yes, please list.
  8. Mentoring a young person is a big responsibility and can change the lives of both the mentor and the protégé. What do you hope to gain from the experience? What do you hope the protégé will gain?

List names and contact information for three references.

I have read and agree to the expectations listed for mentors as outlined in the Guidelines for Mentors publication. I authorize you to contact my references and process a background check.

Signature: ___________________________________________________

Sample Protégé Guidelines

Congratulations on being accepted as a participant in the [name of program]! This program [description of program activities].

Mentoring

You will learn to use the Internet to explore your academic and career interests. You will communicate electronically from home using a computer, modem, software, an Internet network connection, and, if necessary, special adaptive technology. Frequent electronic communications and personal contacts will bring you together with mentors, who will promote your academic, career, and personal achievements. Mentors are college students and professionals in science, engineering, math, technology, and other fields, many with disabilities themselves.

Peer Mentoring

You will develop and practice communication and leadership skills by becoming a peer mentor for incoming participants. You will also recruit students into the program.

After you graduate from high school, you have the option of becoming a mentor. Mentor responsibilities encompass those of other participants, with the addition of the following:

  • Share college experiences with new participants and give college and career transition advice based on these experiences.
  • Mentor younger participants, and help monitor the mentoring discussion list to make sure all participants stay active and netiquette rules are followed, mainly by setting a good example.

Mentors

I'm sure you can think of one or more people in your life who have supplied information, offered advice, presented a challenge, initiated friendship, or simply expressed an interest in your development as a person. Without their intervention you might have remained on the same path, perhaps continuing a horizontal progression through your academic, career, or personal life.

Mentors are valuable resources to you. As guides, counselors, teachers, and friends, they inspire and facilitate academic, career, and personal achievements. Relationships developed with your mentors become channels for the passage of information, advice, opportunities, challenges, and sup-port with the ultimate goals of facilitating achievement and having fun.

Mentors offer the following:

  • Information
    Mentors share their knowledge, experiences, and wisdom.
  • Contacts
    Mentors provide valuable opportunities by facilitating academic, career, and personal contacts.
  • Challenges
    Mentors stimulate curiosity and build confidence by presenting new ideas, opportunities, and challenges.
  • Support
    Mentors encourage growth and achievement by providing an open and supportive environment.
  • Goal Setting
    Mentors help you discover talents and interests and define and attain your goals.
  • Advice
    Mentors guide you in reaching academic, career, and personal goals.
  • Role Models
    By sharing their stories of achievement with you, mentors can become your role models.

To get to know mentors:

  • Ask them about their personal interests and their interests and experiences in academics and careers.
  • Introduce yourself. Share your personal, academic, and career interests and plans.
  • Seek their advice about college preparation, entrance, and success. Ask about career options. Discuss disability-related accommodation issues.

Safety

Safety is an important issue for anyone using the Internet but even more so for minors. It is important that you learn how to identify potential danger and avoid it. Read Kids' Rules for Online Safety, published at SafeKids.com, www.safekids.com/kids-rules-for-online-safety.

Our program promotes group mentoring, in which groups of mentors and protégés discuss ideas and a staff member is always part of the discussion. You should not give out personal information to people you do not already know. Do not respond to electronic messages that you receive from anyone if you are not comfortable with the content. Immediately report offensive or troubling electronic mail messages to your parents and program staff.

"Netiquette"

Follow these electronic mail guidelines.

  • Keep paragraphs in your messages short, and separate paragraphs with blank spaces.
  • Avoid covering several topics in one message. Instead, send several messages. Then the receiver can respond to each topic separately.
  • Use mixed upper- and lower-case letters. Avoid using control characters or special keys.
  • It's friendly to begin a message with the real name of the person with whom you are corresponding. End the message with your real name.
  • When replying to a message that was sent to you, include the email message to which you are replying. You may want to delete parts of it that do not relate to your reply.
  • Do not use words others might find offensive. Avoid personal attacks. Don't engage in name calling.
  • Do not participate in conversations that would not be acceptable to your parents and/or program staff.
  • Do not engage in conversations that you are not comfortable with. Immediately report offensive or troubling electronic mail messages that you receive to [name and email address].
  • Remember that an electronic mail message is easy for recipients to forward to others and, therefore, is not appropriate for very personal messages—it's more like a postcard than a sealed letter.
  • Take advantage of the spell check feature.
  • Review your message BEFORE you send it.

What Is an "Active" Participant?

We encourage you to pursue your interests in college studies and careers. Program activities are to help you in these efforts. To remain on the program team you must be "active." You are considered active if you do, at the minimum, all of the following:

  • Read and respond to electronic mail messages at least once per week.
  • Respond to every personal message sent to you by a mentor, participant, or staff member (response may be as simple as "Thanks for the information").
  • Regularly communicate with participants. Send email messages to the group list at least once every two weeks.
  • Send greetings to new participants and to other students with disabilities upon request.
  • Use the computer and electronic resources in your regular academic classes (for example, use word processing software to write papers, or use electronic resources to obtain information to use in class papers, projects, or discussions).
  • Attend program on-site events when possible.

Acknowledgment: These guidelines were adapted from the DO-IT publication Guidelines for DO-IT Scholars and Ambassadors at www.washington.edu/doit/Brochures/Programs/congrad.html. Permission is granted to reproduce this content provided the source is acknowledged.

Sample Mentor Guidelines

What is a Mentor?

Most of us can think of people in our lives, more experienced than ourselves, who taught us something new, offered advice, presented a challenge, initiated friendship, or simply expressed an interest in our development as a person. They helped us negotiate an uphill path or find an entirely new path to a goal in our academic, career, or personal lives. They showed us a world larger than our neighborhood. They pointed out talents that we hadn't noticed in ourselves and stimulated ideas about what we might be able to accomplish. They nudged us when we needed a nudge.

Adult mentors are an important part of the [name of program] team. Mentors are college students, faculty, and professionals in a wide variety of career fields, many with disabilities themselves. Protégés are participants in the [name of program]. Most mentoring takes place on the Internet. Electronic communication eliminates the challenges imposed by time, distance, and disability that are characteristic of in-person mentoring. Frequent electronic communications and personal contacts bring participants together with mentors to facilitate academic, career, and personal achievements.

As a mentor you offer the following:

  • Information
    Mentors share their knowledge, experiences, and wisdom.
  • Contacts
    Mentors provide valuable opportunities by facilitating academic, career, and personal contacts.
  • Challenges
    Mentors stimulate curiosity and build confidence by presenting new ideas, opportunities, and challenges.
  • Support
    Mentors encourage growth and achievement by providing an open and supportive environment.
  • Goal Setting
    Mentors help protégés discover talents and interests and define and attain their goals.
  • Advice
    Mentors guide protégés in reaching academic, career, and personal goals.
  • Role Models
    By sharing stories of achievement with protégés, mentors can become role models.

How to Be a Mentor

Program staff facilitate communication in small groups through the use of electronic discussion lists. For example, one group includes both mentors and protégés who are blind. They discuss common interests and concerns such as independent living, speech and Braille output systems for computers, and options for displaying images and mathematical expressions. Introducing protégés to mentors with similar disabilities is a strength of the program.

As a mentor, you are a valuable resource to your protégés. As a guide, counselor, and friend, you inspire and facilitate academic, career, and personal achievements. The developmental transitions faced by young people in each of these areas are enriched by your experience, wisdom, and guidance.

Your role as a mentor is a mix of friend and teacher. Relationships developed with your protégés become channels for the passage of information, advice, challenges, opportunities, and support, with the ultimate goals of facilitating achievement and having fun.

How is this accomplished? There are probably as many mentoring styles as there are personality types, and no one can be everything to one person. Each protégé benefits from contact with several mentors. The challenge and fun of mentoring is developing your own personal style for sharing the special strengths and skills you have to offer.

Following are a few suggestions for getting started and staying active as a mentor. Program staff welcome your ideas for suggestions to pass on to future mentors. Happy mentoring!!

Getting Started

To get started as a mentor:

  • Introduce yourself and get to know each of your protégés. Mention personal, career, and education interests; disability; and involvement with science, technology, engineering, and math.
  • Explore interests with protégés by asking questions, promoting discussion, and providing resources (especially those accessible on the Internet).
  • Facilitate contact between students and people with shared interests or resources (e.g., professors, professionals).
  • Encourage participation in our program's on-site events. Mentor-protégé relationships benefit from face-to-face contact!
  • Remember that developing meaningful relationships takes time. Give yourself and your protégé ample room to get to know each other.

Staying Active

All DO-IT mentors are volunteers, and we know that mentoring takes a lot of time. The following are some guidelines to follow when considering whether you have the time and the willingness to be a mentor.

  • Log on at least once per week and read and respond to electronic mail messages.
  • Respond to every personal message sent to you by participants or program staff.
  • Send a greeting to new participants.
  • Communicate with other mentors; act as a resource when possible.
  • Attend other program events whenever possible, and encourage other participants to attend events.

"Netiquette"

Follow these electronic guidelines.

  • Be respectful of your protégés and their communication/personality styles. Ask if there is a way to accommodate them in the way you communicate.
  • Avoid covering several topics in one message. Instead, send several messages so the receiver can respond to each topic separately.
  • Use mixed upper- and lower-case letters. Avoid using control characters or special keys.
  • Begin the text of your message with the real name of the person to whom you're writing, and end the text with your real name.
  • Include all or parts of a mail message to which you are replying.
  • Do not use words others might find offensive, and avoid personal attacks or name calling.
  • Do not participate in conversations that would not be acceptable to the parents of your protégé and/or staff. Remember that program participants are minors!
  • Do not engage in conversations that you are not comfortable with. Immediately report offensive or troubling electronic mail messages that you receive to [name and email address].
  • Remember that an electronic mail message is easy for recipients to forward to others and, therefore, is not appropriate for very personal messages—it's more like a postcard than a sealed letter.
  • Take advantage of the spell check feature.
  • Review what you've written BEFORE you send it.

Keeping Our Young People Safe

The Internet is a sea filled with adventure. By sailing the waters we can explore the world, unlock mysteries, and meet new people. But like any sea, it has dangerous elements as well. Safety is an important issue for anyone using the Internet but even more so for minors. It is important that we teach our young people how to identify potential danger and avoid it.

Our program promotes group mentoring, in which groups of mentors and protégés discuss ideas and a staff member is always part of the discussion. Participants are told not to give out personal information to people they do not already know and not to respond to electronic messages that they receive from anyone if they are not comfortable with the content. They should immediately report offensive or troubling electronic mail messages to their parents and/or program staff.

For more information about the safety of minors on the Internet we suggest you read Kids' Rules for Online Safety, published at SafeKids.com, www.safekids.com/kids-rules-for-online-safety.

Acknowledgment: These guidelines were adapted from the DO-IT publication DO-IT Mentors: Helping Young People Prepare for Their Future at www.washington.edu/doit/Brochures/Programs/mentoring.html. Permission is granted to reproduce this content provided the source is acknowledged.

Sample Parent/Guardian Consent

Name of Participant:

Parent/Guardian Name:

Parent/Guardian Postal Address:

Parent/Guardian Email Address:

Parent/Guardian Telephone Number(s):

I wish to participate in the [program name] online community. I have read the Protégé Guidelines, understand the information presented, and agree to the conditions for participation.

Signature of Participant and Date: ______________________________/____________

I have read the Protégé Guidelines, understand the information presented, and give permission for _____________________ [participant name] to participate in the [program name] online community. I understand that it is my responsibility to supervise my child's use of the Internet and enforce safety guidelines such as Kids' Rules for Online Safety, published at SafeKids.com, www.safekids.com/kids-rules-for-online-safety.

Name of Parent/Guardian: _________________________________________________

Signature of Parent/Guardian and Date: ___________________________/_________

Chapter Fourteen

Resources and Bibliography


Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.
— Henry David Thoreau —


The resources listed in this chapter can help you develop a mentoring community for young people as they transition to adult life.

Electronic Resources

The following resources provide a good place to start as you continue your exploration of ways to encourage college-bound young people to reach their highest potential in school, in careers, and in other life experiences.

ABLEDATA
www.abledata.com

AccessCAREERS
www.washington.edu/doit/Careers

AccessCollege
www.washington.edu/doit/Resources/postsec.html

Adolescent Health Transition Project
depts.washington.edu/healthtr

Alliance for Technology Access
http://www.icdri.org/community/ata.htm

American Association of People with Disabilities
www.aapd-dc.org

ADA & IT Technical Assistance Centers
www.adata.org

The Arc
www.thearc.org

Be a Mentor
www.beamentor.org

CAST: Center for Applied Special Technology
www.cast.org/

Center for Self-Determination
www.self-determination.com

Child Safety on the Information Highway National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
www.safekids.com/child_safety.htm

College Preparation Resources for Students
www.washington.edu/doit/Resources/college_prep.html

DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities,Internetworking, and Technology)
www.washington.edu/doit

DisABILITY Information and Resources
www.makoa.org

e-Volunteerism
www.evolunteerism.com

Family Village: A Global Community of Disability-Related Resources
www.familyvillage.wisc.edu

Got a Good Mentor? Hold Up Your End of the Bargain
www.esight.org/index.cfm?x=1319

HEATH Resource Directory
www.heath.gwu.edu/HEATH_DIR/index.php

Institute on Community Integration
ici.umn.edu

International Center for Disability Resources on the Internet
www.icdri.org

Internet Safety: A Note to Parents, Guardians and Teachers World Kids Network
www.worldkids.net/school/safety/internet/guidance.html

JAN: Job Accommodation Network
www.jan.wvu.edu

KASA: Kids as Self-Advocates
www.fvkasa.org

Kids Together, Inc.: Information and Resources for Children & Adults with Disabilities
www.kidstogether.org

Kidz Privacy: Adults Only Federal Trade Commission
www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/edcams/kidzprivacy/adults.htm

LD Online: Kid Zone
www.ldonline.org/kidzone/kidzone.html

The Librarian's Guide to Cyberspace for Parents & Kids American Library Association
archive.ala.org/parentspage/greatsites/guide.html

Mapping Your Future
mapping-your-future.org

MENTOR
www.mentoring.org

MentorNet: The E-Mentoring Network for Diversity in Engineering and Science
www.MentorNet.net

National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET)
www.ncset.org

National Council on Disability (NCD)
www.ncd.gov

National Council on Independent Living (NCIL)
www.ncil.org

National Mentoring Center
www.nwrel.org/mentoring

National Organization on Disability (N.O.D.)
www.nod.org

National Youth Development Information Center
www.nydic.org/nydic

NICHCY: National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities
www.nichcy.org

NYLN: National Youth Leadership Network
www.nyln.org

OHSU Center on Self-Determination (SD)
www.ohsu.edu/oidd/CSD

PACER Center (Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights)
www.pacer.org

A Parent's Guide to Internet Safety Federal Bureau of Investigation
www.fbi.gov/publications/pguide/pguide.htm

People First of Oregon
www.open.org/~people1

Self-Advocacy and Self-Determination Synthesis Projects
www.uncc.edu/sdsp

ServiceLeader.org: Virtual Volunteering
www.serviceleader.org/new/virtual

Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education: Know Your Rights and Responsibilities
U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR)

www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/transition.html

Think College U.S. Department of Education
www.ed.gov/thinkcollege

U.S. Department of Labor Employment & Training Administration
www.doleta.gov/

What a Mentor Can Do for You
www.esight.org/index.cfm?x=1198

Winners On Wheels!
www.wowusa.com

World Friends, Resources, and Disabilities
www.seattleschools.org/schools/hale/friends/wf_home.htm

World Institute on Disability
www.wid.org

Yes I Can! Foundation for Exceptional Children
yesican.sped.org

Bibliography

Photo of DO-IT Scholar working on an email on a lap top in the computer lab.

The following publications have been referenced in this book and/or are recommended for further reading.

American Association for the Advancement of Science. (2001). In pursuit of a diverse science, technology, engineering, and mathematics workforce. Washington, DC: Author.

Bandura, A., Barbaranelli, C., Caprara, G., & Pastorelli, C. (1996). Multifaceted impact of self efficacy beliefs on academic functioning. Child Development, 67, 1206–1222.

Beck, L. (1989). Mentorships: Benefits and effects on career development. Gifted Child Quarterly, 33,(1), 22–28.

Benz, R. B., Yovanoff, P., & Doren, B. (1997). School-to-work components that predict post-school success for students with and without disabilities. Exceptional Children, 63,(2), 151–165.

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Burgstahler, S. (2003b). Opening doors: Mentoring on the Internet. Seattle, WA: DO-IT, University of Washington. Retrieved September 1, 2006, from http://www.washington.edu/doit/Brochures/Technology/doors.html

Burgstahler, S. (2003c). The role of technology in preparing youth with disabilities for postsecondary education and employment. Journal of Special Education Technology, 18(4), 7–19. Retrieved September 1, 2006, from http://staff.washington.edu/sherylb/

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Burgstahler, S. (2007). Creating a transition program for teens: How DO-IT does it, and how you can do it, too. Seattle: DO-IT, University of Washington.

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About DO-IT and Funding for this Publication

DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) serves to increase the successful participation of individuals with disabilities in challenging academic programs such as those in science, engineering, mathematics, and technology. Primary funding for DO-IT is provided by the National Science Foundation, the State of Washington, and the U.S. Department of Education. DO-IT is a collaboration of UW Information Technology and the Colleges of Engineering and Education at the University of Washington.

Grants and gifts fund DO-IT publications, videos, and programs to support the academic and career success of people with disabilities. Contribute today by sending a check to DO-IT, Box 354842, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-4842.

Your gift is tax deductible as specified in IRS regulations. Pursuant to RCW 19.09, the University of Washington is registered as a charitable organization with the Secretary of State, state of Washington. For more information call the Office of the Secretary of State, 1-800-322-4483.

To order free publications or newsletters use the DO-IT Publications Order Form; to order videos and training materials use the Videos, Books and Comprehensive Training Materials Order Form.

For further information, to be placed on the DO-IT mailing list, request materials in an alternate format, or to make comments or suggestions about DO-IT publications or web pages contact:

DO-IT
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Box 354842
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888-972-DOIT (3648) (Voice/TTY)
206-221-4171 (Fax)
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Founder and Director: Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D.

DO-IT Funding and Partners

© 2006 University of Washington

Permission is granted to copy these materials for non-commercial purposes provided the source is acknowledged.

This book was developed with funding from The Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation and the National Science Foundation (cooperative agreement #HRD-0227995). However, the contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the funding sources, and you should not assume their endorsement.

Creating an E-Mentoring Community - PDFs

Introduction - 1759 KB

Includes:

  • Dedication
  • Acknowledgements
  • Foreword
  • Table of Contents
  • Preface
  • Overview of this Book
  • History and Current Trends Regarding People with Disabilities
  • DO-IT
  • The Role of Technology in Creating this Book
  • What You'll Find in this Book
  • How to Use this Book
  • How to Download or Purchase this Book and Complementary Videos

Chapter One - 1385 KB

Includes:

  • PART I: Creating an Electronic Mentoring Community
  • Peer, Near-Peer, and Mentor Support
  • Computer-Mediated Communication
  • E-Mentoring Communities
  • DO-IT's E-Mentoring Community
  • Joining an Existing Online Mentoring Program

Chapter Two - 1125 KB

Includes:

  • Establish clear goals for the program.
  • Decide what technology to use.
  • Establish a discussion group structure.
  • Select an administrator for the e-mentoring community, and make other staff and volunteer assignments as needed.
  • Develop guidelines for protégés concerning appropriate and safe Internet communications.
  • Establish roles and develop guidelines, orientation, and training for mentors.
  • Standardize procedures for recruiting and screening mentor applicants.
  • Determine how to recruit protégés.
  • Provide guidance to parents.
  • Establish a system whereby new mentors and protégés are introduced to community members.
  • Provide ongoing supervision of and support to mentors.
  • Monitor and manage online discussions.
  • Share resources.
  • Employ strategies that promote personal development.
  • Publicly share the value and content of communications in the e-mentoring community and the contributions of the mentors.
  • Monitor the workings of the e-mentoring community as it evolves. Adjust procedures and forms accordingly.
  • Have fun!

Chapter Three - 551 KB

Includes:

  • Mentor Tip: Orientation
  • Mentor Tip: Discussion Lists/Forums
  • Mentor Tip: Mentoring Guidelines
  • Mentor Tip: Communication of Emotions
  • Mentor Tip: Positive Reinforcement
  • Mentor Tip: Listening Skills
  • Mentor Tip: Questions for Protégés
  • Mentor Tip: Disabilities
  • Mentor Tip: Guiding Teens
  • Mentor Tip: Conversation Starters
  • Mentor Tip: "Dos" when Mentoring Teens
  • Mentor Tip: "Don'ts" when Mentoring Teens

Chapter Four - 755 KB

Includes:

  • E-Community Activity: Welcome to Online Mentoring
  • E-Community Activity: Guidelines for Protégés
  • E-Community Activity: Safety on the Internet
  • E-Community Activity: Jessie and Learning Strategies
  • E-Community Activity: Jessie and Disability Benefits
  • E-Community Activity: Randy and Proving Yourself
  • E-Community Activity: Randy and Taking on Challenges
  • E-Community Activity: Advice from Randy
  • E-Community Activity: Todd and an Awkward Moment
  • E-Community Activity: Todd, Family, and Friends
  • E-Community Activity: Jessie, Randy, Todd, and Success Strategies
  • E-Community Activity: Jessie, Randy, Todd, and Awkward Situations
  • Mentor Tip: Success
  • E-Community Activity: Emulating Characteristics of Successful People
  • E-Community Activity: Achieving Success
  • Mentor Tip: Self-Determination
  • E-Community Activity: Defining Self-Determination
  • E-Community Activity: Characteristics of Self-Determined People
  • E-Community Activity: Steps Toward Self-Determination
  • Mentor Tip: Commitment to Learning
  • Mentor Tip: Positive Values
  • Mentor Tip: Social Competencies
  • Mentor Tip: Positive Identity
  • Mentor Tip: Self-Development
  • Mentor Tip: Problem Solving
  • E-Community Activity: Advice from Teens
  • E-Community Activity: Success Stories on the Web
  • E-Community Activity: Affirming Success

Chapter Five - 658 KB

Includes:

  • PART II: Supporting Teens in an E-Mentoring Community
  • Mentor Tip: Steps to Success
  • Mentor Tip: Definition of Success
  • E-Community Activity: Learning from Successful Experiences
  • E-Community Activity: Finding Your Goals for Success
  • E-Community Activity: Learning from Teens with Disabilities
  • E-Community Activity: Learning from Role Models
  • E-Community Activity: Discovering Academic Success Factors
  • E-Community Activity: Selecting Your Best Teacher
  • E-Community Activity: Defining Success
  • Mentor Tip: Keeping a Positive Attitude
  • E-Community Activity: Building a Positive Attitude
  • E-Community Activity: Finding Humor
  • E-Community Activity: Affirming Success

Chapter Six - 723 KB

Includes:

  • Mentor Tip: Goals
  • Mentor Tip: Goal Setting
  • E-Community Activity: Setting Goals
  • Mentor Tip: Promoting High Expectations
  • Mentor Tip: Getting Help with Setting Goals
  • E-Community Activity: Getting Help to Maintain High Expectations
  • E-Community Activity: Matching Academic Interests with Careers
  • Mentor Tip: People with Disabilities and STEM
  • E-Community Activity: Pursuing STEM
  • E-Community Activity: Considering College Options
  • E-Community Activity: Making Plans
  • E-Community Activity: Affirming Success

Chapter Seven - 784 KB

Includes:

  • Mentor Tip: Disability Acceptance
  • E-Community Activity: Accepting Disability
  • Mentor Tip: Labels
  • E-Community Activity: Trying New Things
  • E-Community Activity: Identifying Your Likes and Dislikes
  • Mentor Tip: Incorrect Assumptions
  • E-Community Activity: Dealing with Incorrect Assumptions
  • E-Community Activity: Describing Your Disability
  • E-Community Activity: Dealing with Rude People
  • E-Community Activity: Thinking about Language
  • E-Community Activity: Responding to Labels
  • E-Community Activity: Building on Strengths
  • E-Community Activity: Redefining Limitations as Strengths
  • E-Community Activity: Exploring Learning Strengths and Challenges
  • E-Community Activity: Taking Inventory of Your Learning Style
  • E-Community Activity: Finding Careers That Use Your Skills
  • E-Community Activity: Matching Skills with Careers
  • E-Community Activity: Identifying Your Career Interests and Work Style
  • E-Community Activity: Healthy Self-Esteem
  • E-Community Activity: Valuing Yourself
  • E-Community Activity: Learning to Value Yourself
  • E-Community Activity: Affirming Self-Value
  • E-Community Activity: Affirming Success

Chapter Eight - 498 KB

Includes:

  • Mentor Tip: Self-Advocacy
  • Mentor Tip: Goals
  • Mentor Tip: Short- and Long-Term Goals
  • E-Community Activity: Making Informed Decisions
  • Mentor Tip: Rights and Responsibilities
  • E-Community Activity: Knowing Your Rights and Responsibilities in College
  • E-Community Activity: Securing Accommodations in College
  • E-Community Activity: Developing Study Habits
  • E-Community Activity: Creating Win-Win Solutions
  • E-Community Activity: Changing Advocacy Roles
  • E-Community Activity: Self-Advocating
  • E-Community Activity: Self-Advocating with Teachers
  • E-Community Activity: Disclosing Your Disability in College
  • E-Community Activity: Disclosing Your Disability to an Employer
  • E-Community Activity: Advising a Friend about Disability Disclosure
  • E-Community Activity: Being Assertive
  • E-Community Activity: Securing Job Accommodations
  • E-Community Activity: Asking for Accommodations at Work
  • E-Community Activity: Standing Up for Convictions and Beliefs
  • E-Community Activity: Learning from Mistakes
  • E-Community Activity: Affirming Success

Chapter Nine - 653 KB

Includes:

  • E-Community Activity: Surveying Accessible Technology
  • Mentor Tip: Promoting Technology
  • Mentor Tip: Technology Access
  • Mentor Tip: Technology and Success in School
  • E-Community Activity: Becoming Digital-Age Literate
  • E-Community Activity: Using Technology with Young Children
  • E-Community Activity: Using Technology for Success in School
  • E-Community Activity: Using Technology to Complete Homework
  • E-Community Activity: Using Technology in Science and Engineering
  • E-Community Activity: Surfing the Web to Prepare for College
  • E-Community Activity: Using Technology in Your Career
  • E-Community Activity: Using Technology in Careers
  • E-Community Activity: Surfing the Web to Prepare for a Career
  • E-Community Activity: Using Technology to Enhance Your Social Life
  • E-Community Activity: Affirming Success with Technology

Chapter Ten - 489 KB

Includes:

  • Mentor Tip: Actions to Achieve Goals
  • E-Community Activity: Working Hard
  • E-Community Activity: Coping with Stress
  • E-Community Activity: Being Flexible
  • E-Community Activity: Taking Risks
  • E-Community Activity: Taking Action
  • E-Community Activity: Learning from Experiences
  • E-Community Activity: Learning from Work Experiences
  • E-Community Activity: Understanding the Value of Work Experiences
  • E-Community Activity: Being Resilient
  • E-Community Activity: Affirming Success

Chapter Eleven - 575 KB

Includes:

  • Mentor Tip: Teen Support
  • Mentor Tip: Supportive Environment
  • Mentor Tip: Self-Determination Support
  • Mentor Tip: Teen Relationships with Adults
  • E-Community Activity: Developing Relationships with Adults
  • E-Community Activity: Working with Adults
  • E-Community Activity: Participating in Activities
  • E-Community Activity: Being a Good Friend
  • Mentor Tip: Friendships
  • E-Community Activity: Developing Friendships
  • E-Community Activity: Locating a Career OneStop
  • E-Community Activity: Finding Resources and Support

Chapter Twelve - 357 KB

Includes:

  • PART III: Where to Go from Here 
  • E-Community Activity: Share Your Views on Success
  • E-Community Activity: Share Your Views on Goals
  • E-Community Activity: Share Your Views on Abilities
  • E-Community Activity: Share Your Views on Strategies
  • E-Community Activity: Share Your Views on Technology
  • E-Community Activity: Share Your Views on Working Hard
  • E-Community Activity: Share Your Views on Support Network

Chapter Thirteen - 460 KB

Includes:

  • Sample Mentor Guidelines
  • Sample Protégé Guidelines
  • Sample Mentor Application
  • Sample Parent/Guardian Consent

Chapter Fourteen - 474 KB

Includes:

  • Electronic Resources
  • Bibliography

Index - 150 KB

© 2007 University of Washington

Permission is granted to copy these materials for non-commercial purposes provided the source is acknowledged.