As neurodiverse students enter higher education institutions, they often face various challenges, such as socialisation, academic adjustments, and the development of self-advocacy skills. These challenges can be overwhelming, leading to isolation and academic difficulties. Peer mentoring can help neurodiverse students overcome these challenges and succeed in their academic and social pursuits.
Peer mentoring involves pairing neurodiverse students with trained mentors who have similar experiences and are successful in navigating higher education. The mentors provide support, guidance, and a sense of belonging to the mentees. According to a study recently published in the Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, neurodiverse students who engaged in peer mentoring exhibited greater academic self-efficacy, higher levels of social support, and improved overall academic performance compared to their peers.
How does Peer Mentoring help Neurodiverse Students
Peer mentoring has several benefits for neurodiverse students. First, it provides a sense of belonging and community, which is crucial for the mental health and well-being of students. Mentors can also provide a safe and non-judgmental space for mentees to express their feelings and concerns.
Second, peer mentoring helps students develop social skills, such as communication and conflict resolution, which are essential for success in university and beyond. These skills can be complex for neurodiverse students to develop, as they may struggle with social cues and nonverbal communication.
Third, peer mentoring can help students improve their academic performance. Mentors can assist mentees with time management, study skills, and understanding academic expectations. They can also provide guidance on accessing academic support services and advocating for themselves in the classroom.
Finally, peer mentoring can help students develop self-advocacy skills. Through mentoring, students learn how to identify their strengths and weaknesses, set goals, and communicate their needs effectively. These skills are essential for students to thrive both academically and professionally, as they empower them to navigate complex environments with confidence.
What was the Bond University experience
When a group of neurodiverse students approached our Accessibility & Inclusion Advisor and shared their difficulties in connecting socially at university, we came up with a means to link this group of students both socially and academically through the Vygo app. As we already had a peer-to-peer mentoring platform in place, we sought to offer a modernised delivery on this existing program by adding a bespoke stream of support aimed at neurodiverse students, coupled with options for access to social development and well-being workshops.
To mitigate any social anxiety, students connect to each other using the Vygo app in the first instance and can subsequently arrange for face-to-face meetings or attend workshops. As part of this project, we created a sensory room which acts as a reserved space for the students and provides them with a judgement free area to undertake study or simply decompress. The addition of the space has created more opportunities to forge connection.
The peer groups are complemented by a team of post-graduate Occupational Therapy students who are completing internships with us to generate specialist support for neurodiverse learners. Every student who is currently on a learning access plan with an Autism Spectrum-related diagnosis is now a registered and active user of the app and they have generated a community of peers through this tool.
In conclusion, peer mentoring can be a valuable tool for supporting neurodiverse students in higher education. Through peer mentoring, students can gain social skills, improve their academic performance, and develop self-advocacy skills, which are essential for success in higher education and beyond. Institutions should consider implementing peer mentoring programs to support the success of neurodiverse students. By breaking down barriers through peer mentoring, we can create a more inclusive and supportive higher education environment for all students.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- What is peer mentoring?
Peer mentoring involves pairing neurodiverse students with trained mentors who have similar experiences and are successful in navigating higher education. The mentors provide support, guidance, and a sense of belonging to the mentees.
- How can peer mentoring benefit Neurodiverse students?
Peer mentoring provides a sense of belonging and community, helps students develop social skills, improves academic performance, and helps students develop self-advocacy skills.
- How are mentees matched with mentors?
Mentees are matched with mentors based on their interests, experiences, and academic goals.
- How long does peer mentoring last?
Peer mentoring can last for a semester, an academic year, or longer, depending on the needs of the mentee.
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