Effects of peer mentors on work-related performance of adolescents with behavioral and/or learning disabilities.

Authors: White, J., & Weiner, J.
Year Published 2006
Publication Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions.
Volume 8
Number 4
Pages 244-251
Publisher Hammill Institute on Disabilities.

The transition to adulthood can be challenging for all youth; this is especially true for many young people with disabilities. They often experience high levels of school dropout, unemployment, economic hardship and instability, and social isolation. Over the years policies of special education programming (e.g., Individualized Education Programs, Individual Transition Plans) have been developed to increase employment competence and outcomes for young people with disabilities. However, these policies have not translated into effective practices.Research has been evolving on how to use person-centered planning and positive behavioral support principles and strategies to improve post secondary outcomes particularly in employment settings. A peer-mentor instructional and coaching role for youth with disabilities in school-based technical or vocational training programs may be an effective. This approach may be used to build on young people interests and strengths, tailor supports, and improve successful learning of work-related curriculum skills. They could also provide a cost-effective way of preparing youth for the task and social expectations of the workplace.


The purpose of this study was to examine the role of peer mentors in a school-based cosmetology vocational training salon in increasing the work-related skills of youth with specific learning disabilities (SLDs) and severe emotional disturbances (SEDs).


The setting for the study was a vocational training program in cosmetology at a technical center. There secondary and adult students learn how to perform a variety of salon services (ie. haircuts, hair styling, nail care etc...), using manikins and school and community patrons.


Four female students between the ages of 16 to 18 participated in the study. Each had a diagnosis of severe emotional disturbance or severe learning disability. Each student had expressed a desire in pursuing a career in cosmetology during person centered planning.

Data Collection

Each participant had a targeted work related tasks to learn. The first had roller setting and combing out. The second had combing out and roller setting. Roller setting was judged based on a predetermined criteria. Combing out was observed and afterwards the task was judged on predetermined factors. The other two participants, the third and fourth received training on comfort inquires and suggestive statements. Work tasks were selected where specific comfort inquiries (i.e.. Is the water to hot?) and suggestive statements (using hair styling products) were appropriate. The mentor and experimenter determined 1 to 3 minimal opportunities to make comfort inquiries and 1 to 2 minimal suggestion statements for each type of service. Observers were trained on all behaviors or products to an interrater reliability of 85% or more by observing other students in the program.
Each participant completed a circle of support form during baseline and at the end of the study. Both participants and mentors completed a questionnaire to gauge their views about the peer mentoring role.


There was no control or comparison condition.


The woman in the first case study received training on teleworking and computer skills. Afterwards she went to work for a non profit at 20 hours a week. Initially, she typed and edited reports. Eventually she received more hours to manage a database and mailings. She has worked for 14 years.In the second case study a husband and wife teleworker. The husband was was hired by a non profit to work 20 hours a week as a customer service representative to handle calls during traditional business hours. Nine months later his wife was employed by the same organization doing the same type of work.The jobs also the team to maintain health and manage fatigue.


Peer mentors can trained to teach individuals with disabilities who have difficulties learning verbal and nonverbal tasks. This appears to be an effective and acceptable way to assist student performance in a vocational training setting. It also appears to be help young people feel more comfortable in such settings. More research is needed to learn more about using peer mentors in vocational training settings and using coworkers as natural supports in employment settings.

URL http://pbi.sagepub.com/content/8/4/244.abstract
Disabilities Specific learning disabilities
Populations Female | Transition-age youth (14 - 24)
Outcomes Employment acquisition
NIDILRR Funded Not Reported
Research Design Case reports
Peer Reviewed Yes