Mentoring sessions are for children who need specific support with aspects of being neurodivergent. This usually includes one or a combination of the following:
- finding out about what it means to be neurodivergent
- building self-esteem
- improving executive functioning skills
- managing anxiety
- managing anger and frustration
- understanding and managing emotions (in themselves and others)
- building independence
- life skills
Mentoring sessions are highly personalised to each individual child incorporating their interests to help motivate and engage them. Objectives are identified and agreed between the mentor, child and parents and these are reviewed regularly and adapted whenever needed. Where appropriate, we liaise with your child’s school especially if what we’re covering in our sessions would benefit your child there. All our mentors are neurodivergent themselves which we find enables us to connect with the children we work with on a deeper level and we tend to instinctively understand each other. Being neurodivergent, we understand how important it is for everything we do with our students to be neurodiversity affirming. We never encourage masking and we ensure our students understand that the way they do things is totally ok - they live in a neurotypical world and there are lots of social rules and expectations that make up that world. We explore with them what those rules and expectations are and potential consequences of not following them but we make it clear that it's always up to them if they choose to abide by them or not. We teach our students how to advocate for their needs as we know how important this skill will be throughout their lives.
Most sessions are structured with a combination of talking and practical play-based learning activities and some activities are based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques. There is also an emphasis on learning about how the brain works, how this relates to the student’s own experiences and teaching mindfulness skills that the child can then apply outside of sessions. We have developed some easy to understand and relatable analogies to help explain key concepts relating to learning, emotions and being neurodivergent. We also understand the importance of the interoceptive sense and we follow Kelly Mahler’s Interoception Curriculum and aspects of The Zones of Regulation with students who we feel would benefit from these programmes. Children participating in these more structured sessions are sometimes given tasks to do at home in between sessions. These are always optional but highly recommended to help embed the strategies we’re working on in our sessions in their everyday life.
Some sessions are more talking oriented so the child chooses an activity (such as playdough, Minecraft, Lego, crafts, board games etc.) which we both do while chatting. This helps the child feel more relaxed and by doing something else they enjoy at the same time, they tend to be more open about how they’re feeling. We use collaborative approaches to engage children who struggle with more direct approaches and we try to keep these sessions as demand-free as possible.
Children are always given the opportunity to talk about any worries or concerns they have but only if they choose to. We work hard to build a positive relationship with our students based on trust and respect. We want our students to know they are in a safe space where they can discuss anything without fear of judgement or reprisal. They are told in their first session that if there’s anything they don’t want us to share with their parents then they just need to tell us that. We explain to them that the only time we won't be able to honour this is if we felt the child (or someone else) was at risk of harm.
Incorporating exercise into sessions is a key component of Kickstart Learning. Mentoring sessions can be quite intense and often involve strong emotions and so it is useful to have a way to break up the session and provide an appropriate environment for a child to release their frustrations. This often includes activities such as football, boxing and obstacle courses.
Children attending mentoring sessions are generally no younger than 7. Weekly sessions are preferable, especially at first, to enable sufficient progress to be made. The minimum session duration for mentoring is 60 minutes but we find that some children benefit more from 90 minute sessions. Older children sometimes have half termly or termly sessions just to touch base and keep them on track but they have nearly always had more intensive sessions for a period of time first. Oral feedback is provided at the end of every session and an electronic Progress Tracker is also completed after each session which parents can access at home.
Mentoring per hour