On mentoring students with disabilities: A consultation with Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Moscow (Старшие Братья Старшие Сестры России)

Nastavniki, otherwise known as Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Moscow, is an organization specializing in mentoring young people in the child welfare system – including young people with disabilities.  As I understand it, this makes Nastavniki a trail-blazer in Russia, due to their willingness to step up and support a stigmatized population of children in need.  Dr. Alexandra Telitsyna, Executive Director, is passionate about this work, and has led the organization to embrace the challenge of supporting youth with disabilities to their best potential.

According to Dr. Telitsyna, “the program has shown that spending at least a few hours with a child in a difficult life situation increases his self-confidence and self-esteem. The child becomes more outgoing, more interested in his surroundings, and improves his performance at school.”

Last week, I was pleased to be a consultant to Dr. Telitsyna and her team of social workers on the topics of reframing disability and best practices in evaluating mentoring outcomes.  We discussed a number of best practices that are used in the United States mentoring context.

First, we discussed the use of successful adults with disabilities as mentors to youth with disabilities – especially with respect to mentoring around employment-related topics.  Second, we discussed the importance of developing the work-readiness skills of youth with disabilities.  Third, we discussed the importance of working to counter disability discrimination and stigma that is present in both the United States and the Russian Federation – specifically through empowerment-oriented work with youth with disabilities in mentoring relationships. Fourth, we discussed the use of psychometrically tested outcome measures for self-efficacy, self-confidence and quality of life in mentoring program evaluation.

I hope to continue my consultations with this vibrant and expanding program in the future!  Below, I am consulting with Ruslana Yatsenko and Inna Knyazeva about best practices in mentoring youth with disabilities in the offices of Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Moscow.