Ch 5_Challenge 2_Infogram

Recent research confirms the low rates of disclosure identified by the NLTS2. Of the 1 in 9 undergraduates (11.1%) who disclosed any kind of disability to their college in 2011–2012, only 1 in 20 (4.8%) reported having learning disabilities even though it is the largest disability category for K–12 students.7 More research is needed to understand why students were more likely to report having other kinds of “invisible” disabilities including mental illness/depression (30.8%) or ADHD^ (21.8%).8

Why Don’t Undergraduates Disclose Their SLD?

Studies of disclosure rates indicate there are many reasons why students who were identified in high school with SLD don’t tell their college they have a disability.9 These reasons include:

  • Wanting to establish an identity independent of disability status
  • Shame or fear of being perceived as lazy or unintelligent or of getting an unfair advantage by requesting accommodations
  • Fear of receiving no response or a negative response from faculty who may not know much about certain disabilities or about the laws that protect against discrimination
  • Underestimating how important accommodations are to their academic success
  • Not knowing what kinds of disability services are available in college or how to access them
  • Having a high school transition plan^ that does not specify needed postsecondary accommodations and supports

Armed with the knowledge that many undergraduates with learning disabilities do not disclose their disability, colleges can do more to support students with undisclosed disabilities. Research indicates at least three ways colleges can help:

First, colleges should encourage all students to use resources such as writing labs or math labs. Research shows that students with learning disabilities who use these universally available resources—which can be accessed by any student, regardless of disability disclosure—are more likely to be successful in completing postsecondary school.10

Second, colleges should engage in outreach efforts to (a) provide information to students about how to apply for accommodations, and (b) raise awareness among faculty about learning and attention issues and services and supports that are available, so they can encourage students to take advantage of these resources.

Third, colleges should increase their efforts to integrate all incoming students into the campus community. Research suggests that students with disabilities who interact with faculty and students outside of class may be more likely to persist from the first year to the second year of college than students who experience little or no academic or social integration.11