An Innovative, Urban, Diverse Teen Mentoring Initiative

Saturday, May 13, 2017: 12:00 PM-1:40 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
S. King1, L. Bartolotti2 and S. Rajabiun3, (1)88 East Newton Street, Vose 4, Autism Consortium, Boston, MA, (2)Boston Medical Center, Boston, MA, (3)The Center for Advancing Health Policy and Practice, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA

The Autism Program at Boston Medical Center(BMC) has implemented an innovative teen mentoring initiative for youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) to address the challenges associated with ASD, adolescence and adult transitioning. Teens Engaged as Mentors (TEAM) aims to empower diverse urban youth through a model that uses mentor dyads (youth with ASD paired with neurotypical youth) to facilitate strong leadership, self-confidence and positive community engagement. Taking place across the 2015-2017 school years, key elements of TEAM include training and supervision for mentors, facilitated monthly community service project “hangouts,” and recreational social events.


1) Describe the impact of the TEAM program on participants and key stakeholders with respect to leadership, social awareness, self-esteem, independence/autonomy and community engagement.

2) Identify the key aspects of the mentor relationship that contribute to these outcomes.


Researchers conducted three focus groups with stakeholders of the TEAM program. A convenience sample was used to recruit 8 parents of mentees, 5 mentees (all diagnosed with ASD) and 7 mentors (4 neurotypical, 3 diagnosed with ASD). BMC institutional IRB approval was granted and consents were obtained verbally. The focus groups were audiotaped and transcribed and uploaded to a password/protected secure website that is HIPAA compliant. We used a grounded theory framework and standard qualitative analysis techniques of thematic content and comparative analyses Five researchers independently coded the transcripts for key themes and patterns. To ensure inter-rater reliability, coding schemes were compared across stakeholder interviewers and discrepancies were resolved until consensus was reached. Final results compared themes by stakeholders, diagnoses and gender.


Results revealed numerous perceived benefits of TEAM across all stakeholders, including observations of growth in the areas of self-esteem, confidence, socialization independence and communication skills. Mentors and Mentees described how they gained skills in teamwork and making new friends from the program. Mentors shared how they learned patience, acceptance and being open-minded toward others. Mentees expressed they learned from their mentors the importance being authentic and real, making connections to others, and helping others. Parental feedback highlighted the overarching need for programming such as TEAM due to their child’s struggles with peer isolation, anxiety, and understanding social norms within groups and experiences of restricted community access. Community engagement and the importance of giving back to others was cited by parents, mentees and mentors as a unique aspect of the TEAM interventions.


This formative research study indicates that teen mentoring is having a positive impact on promoting skills such as socialization, independence and autonomy for both youth with ASD and neurotypical youth. For all youth, mentoring can promote cultural diversity and acceptance of others, build self-confidence and enhance teamwork. Teen mentoring programs that provide structured learning opportunities and community service programs may be an effective strategy for helping youth with ASD foster independent living skills as they transition to adulthood.