How Having Mentors Can Help Kids Who Learn and Think Differently

By Erica Patino

Expert reviewed by Jim Rein, MA

At a glance

  • A mentor is an older child or adult who can be a role model for your child.

  • Mentors spend quality time with a child. They offer support, encouragement, and fun.

  • Kids who have a mentor tend to do better in school and have higher self-esteem.

Some kids could use some extra help or a confidence boost outside of school. Parents and classroom teachers can often help make a difference in those kids’ lives. But sometimes it’s helpful to have someone else step in: someone who is not already as much a part of your child’s everyday life. In many cases, this is a mentor—someone who can offer guidance, build confidence, and be a friend to your child.

The Benefits of Mentorship

A mentor can talk to your child about problems that crop up and help set future career goals. Or a mentor and your child might just spend time having fun together. Having a mentor can raise a child’s self-esteem and lead to better performance at school. It can also make your child less likely to drink alcohol or use illegal drugs.

For kids who learn and think differently, it can be especially helpful to have a mentor who knows what it feels like to grow up with these challenges. Some kids are reluctant to reach out for help when they need it. They might be embarrassed about their struggles in school or other challenges they face. Having a mentor who’s been there can remove that barrier.

A mentor is a positive role model for your child, and one more person who can support and encourage for your child. This relationship can help your child do better in school and even raise your child’s self-esteem.

Types of Mentors

There are many types of people who can be good mentors, and finding the right mentor might take some time. It’s important to find a mentor who’s a good fit for your child. Here are some people you might want to consider:

  • A sports coach, art teacher, or music teacher
  • A school teacher, perhaps from a previous school year
  • College students or young adults who learn and think differently (who you may find through an organization like Eye to Eye)
  • A neighbor or family friend
  • A coworker
  • A mentor found through a mentoring organization

How to Find a Mentor

  • Start by considering people you already know. Think about your child’s interests. Is your child a budding painter? Maybe you know an art teacher or an artist who might make time to go to an art museum or talk about art with your child.
  • Try talking one-on-one with a potential mentor first. Have that first conversation with the person you have in mind without your child present, way you won’t put the person on the spot in front of your child. Some people may want to be mentors but simply don’t have the time to dedicate.
  • Look into a mentoring program. It’s possible to match your child with a volunteer mentor through a mentoring program. Check with your child’s school for recommended mentoring programs in your area. Big Brothers Big Sisters and Eye to Eye, for example, are great organizations. In fact, Eye to Eye mentors have challenges like ADHD and dyslexia, and may serve as an ideal match for a child who learns and thinks differently. 

Key takeaways

  • Any child can benefit from having a mentor.

  • You may find a mentor for your child through people you already know. You can also try working with a mentoring organization.

  • It can be especially helpful for kids who learn and think differently to have a mentor who grew up with these challenges. This will help them understand their own experiences.


About the author

About the author

Erica Patino is an online writer and editor who specializes in health and wellness content.

Reviewed by

Reviewed by

Jim Rein, MA has lectured on postsecondary options and summer programs for kids and young adults with learning and thinking differences.