How Having Mentors Can Help Kids Who Learn and Think Differently

By Erica Patino, MA
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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 and offer support, encouragement, and fun.

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

Beyoncé. Peyton Manning. Mark Zuckerberg. Chances are there’s a famous person your child looks up to and admires. Mentors fill a similar role—they can be an older child or adult your child actually knows and can become a role model. A mentor is someone who can spend quality time with and encourage 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. Having a mentor who’s been there can remove that barrier.

A mentor is a positive role model for your child. If you’re a single mom, a male mentor can provide a role model of the opposite sex (and vice versa for single dads). It’s one more person who offers support and encouragement for your child. This 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 could be good mentors. 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

  • 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

  • One of your coworkers

  • A mentor found through a mentoring organization

How to Find a Mentor

  • Start by considering the 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. This 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.

  • Mentoring programs can match your child with a volunteer mentor. Check with your child’s school for recommended mentoring programs in your area. Eye to Eye mentors have challenges like ADHD and dyslexia. There are also programs that aren’t specific to learning and thinking differences, like Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Key Takeaways

  • Any child can benefit from having a mentor.

  • 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.

  • You may find a mentor for your child through people you already know, or through a mentoring organization.

About the Author

About the Author

Erica Patino, MA 

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.

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