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Table of Contents
  Sharing the Knowledge of AAC Users
  What is the AAC Mentor Project?
  What is a mentor?
  Why have a mentor?
  Who are the AAC mentors?
  Who are the proteges?
  What skills are needed to be a good mentor?
  How will mentors develop these skills?
  What is the Mentor Leadership Training Course?
  How long will it take to complete the course?
  What is the Mentor Network?
  How can I find out more?

bullet  Sharing the Knowledge of AAC Users

There is a group of adults, across the nation, who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) and who have successfully overcome many challenges; they have achieved personally desired outcomes in their educational/vocational, social, and personal lives. These individuals offer a rich potential source of disability-related information, effective problem solving strategies, and encouragement for others with similar disabilities who confront comparable challenges.

Mentoring has been used in many other fields to link more experienced people (mentors) with less experienced people (proteges) to help the proteges with many life activities. Mentors can provide guidance and share knowledge with proteges. People who use AAC should have opportunities to participate in these types of relationships. The Mentor Project was designed to help AAC users meet each other, and to help AAC users begin Mentor-Protˇgˇ relationships.


protege "I want to know if I should go to college? If I like computers so much, what should I study? My school-planning meeting is coming up for next year. Can you help me?"
[E-mail message from an adolescent who uses AAC to her mentor]
mentor "Yes, I think you should go to college, but you have to decide that for yourself. Only you can decide that. People around you can encourage you to go, but the final decision is up to you. I can tell you that if you go and get your degree, you will get far in life. Doors will open with job opportunities, plus you will feel better about yourself knowing that you have accomplished something. If you like computers and if it’s something that you know you can do, then that is the way to go. Make sure in your IEP, they put that you have computers. If there is a computer class, ask to be in that class. Just make sure that it is what you want."
[E-mail message from the mentor in response]


bullet  What is the AAC Mentor Project?

The Mentor Project was developed at Penn State University by Dr. Janice Light and Dr. David McNaughton to link adolescents who use AAC with mentors via the Internet. Thirty adult AAC mentors will be recruited and trained (15 the first year and 15 the second year). In addition, 30 adolescent AAC users will be linked to these mentors to help them in many aspects of their lives. The program has several objectives over its course:

  1. To develop a leadership training program for adults who use AAC to become mentors.
  2. To encourage adolescents who use AAC to independently set goals for themselves and use proper problem solving strategies.
  3. To develop a wide range of disability resources to benefit the AAC population.

bullet  What is a mentor?

A mentor is a role model. A mentor is a guide. A mentor is someone to turn to when there is a problem. As Josefowitz once said, a mentor is someone who provides "a brain to pick, a shoulder to cry on, and a kick in the pants."

bullet  Why have a mentor?

Michael Williams "There is no limit to the kinds of things a person who relies on augmentative and alternative communication might want a mentor for: strategies for independent living, relationship development, employment issues, education issues, self-advocacy, personal assistant management, psychosocial issues, communication skill development, life goal planning. Each transition can be smoother with the help of a mentor."  [Michael Williams]

bullet  Who are the AAC mentors?

Mentors are individuals who use AAC who have had success in their lives at school, at work, and at home. They are chosen by the project team after an extensive selection process.


  • are adults
  • have completed high school
  • are functionally literate
  • have an interest in others
  • can communicate effectively (i.e. appropriate syntax, semantics and pragmatics)
  • can help others learn problem solving skills
  • are interested in learning new skills themselves
  • have been successful in attaining educational, vocational, social and/or personal goals
  • are reliable
  • will communicate regularly with their proteges for at least a year
  • are familiar with E-mail and the Internet
  • are individuals with Cerebral Palsy

bullet  Who are the proteges?

Proteges are adolescents or young adults who are interested in improving themselves, and who would like to be matched up an experienced AAC user who has had success in school, at work, and at home. Proteges can be nominated by their parents, teachers, and therapists.


  • are adolescents and young adults who use AAC
  • are individuals with Cerebral Palsy
  • are approximately high school age or older
  • are functionally literate
  • have an interest in improving themselves
  • can communicate their feelings, ideas and intentions in writing using an AAC device
  • would like to learn how to enhance their communication skills, problem solving skills, and how to access disability resources
  • are interesting in having regular E-mail interactions with a more experienced adult mentor
  • will communicate regularly with their mentor for at least a year
  • have support in using E-mail, and would like to learn more about the Internet

bullet  What skills are needed to be a good mentor?

Good mentors need:

  • Effective communication skills
  • Problem-solving and goal-setting skills
  • Knowledge of how to find disability resources

bullet  How will mentors develop these skills?

  1. Mentors will complete a self-study course through a web site (we call this self-study course the Mentor Leadership Training Course); and
  2. Mentors will participate on a listserv (an email discussion group) with the other mentors on this project. We call this listserv, the Mentor Network. Mentors can use the Mentor Network to share questions, ideas, and thoughts about being a mentor.

bullet  What is the Mentor Leadership Training Course?

Mentors will complete the Mentor Leadership Training Course. It is a self-study course. Mentors can work on it by themselves at their own pace.

The Mentor Leadership Training Course has lessons on four topics:

  • Communicating with your partner (the adolescent or young adult whom you are mentoring);
  • Helping your partner learn to set goals and to solve problems;
  • Helping your partner learn to find useful information on disability resources; and
  • Putting all these skills together to be a good mentor.

In each of the lessons, mentors will have the chance to learn new skills or to improve the skills they already have. Mentors will have the chance to practice their skills by acting as a mentor in role-play situations.

bullet  How long will it take to complete the course?

We estimate that it will take a total of 12-18 hours to complete the Mentor Leadership Training Course. Mentors can work on the course 1-2 hours a day over a number of days.

If mentors already have some experience as a mentor and they have already learned many of these skills, then it may take less time.

If mentors have not yet had the opportunity to be a mentor and they are learning new skills, it may take a bit longer.

Mentors can progress at their own speed. Mentors should plan to complete the course within 6-8 weeks.

bullet  What is the Mentor Network?

In addition to completing the Mentor Leadership Training Course on this web site, mentors will also have the opportunity to participate each week on a listserv with the other mentors on the project. We call this listserv the Mentor Network.

Through the Mentor Network, mentors will have the chance to:

  • Ask any questions that they might have about being a mentor,
  • Share suggestions that they have for others who are also preparing to be mentors, and
  • Get to know a really great group of people from all over the country!

Michael Williams and Carole Krezman will facilitate the Mentor Network. They will share their own experiences as mentors and will welcome and encourage others to participate.

bullet  How can I find out more about the project?

Phone: 814-863-6015
Fax: 814-863-3759
E-mail: AACmentor@psu.edu

AAC Mentor Project
c/o Janice Light
Penn State University
110 Moore Bldg.
University Park, PA 16802-3100


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Designed and maintained by:

The AAC Mentor Project Team
Penn State University
Last updated June, 2000.
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Helping adolescents and young adults who use AAC overcome challenges and meet their goals at home, at school, at work, and in the community!

National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research This research is supported by Grant #H133G8004 from The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR). The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research and no official endorsement should be inferred.