Exploring the relationships between self-determination, willingness to disclose, and attitudes towards requesting accommodations in self-disclosure decisions of university students with learning disabilities

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Cole, Emma Victoria

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The number of students with learning disabilities (SLD) at post-secondary institutions continues to grow. Research has found that SLD who use accommodations at their post-secondary institution are more successful in university than those who do not. Yet, research suggests that SLD do not request accommodations at expected levels. Disability self-disclosure is important to SLD because they need to self-disclose their disability to university personnel to obtain accommodations. The reasons for lower levels of self-disclosure by SLDs to university personnel remain unclear. Self-determination, attitudes towards requesting accommodations, and level of self-disclosure (i.e., psychological factors) has individually been identified as possible factors that affect disability disclosure. To date, no study has investigated the effects of these factors on SLD disability disclosure in higher education. This study’s purpose was to investigate differences in psychological factors between two SLD disclosure groups (i.e., no disclosure and university and classroom disclosure). In addition, the study examined what factors SLDs consider when deciding if they will self-disclose their disability to university personnel. To achieve these goals, 31 undergraduate students with learning disabilities completed a mixed methods study comprised of quantitative scales and a qualitative interview. The Self-Disclosure Scale, the Attitudes Towards Requesting Accommodations Scale, and the Revised Self-Disclosure Scale were utilized to measure psychological factors. A 30 minute semi-structured interview was administered to 15 participants to further explore what factors SLD take into consideration when making self-disclosure decisions. Results indicate that the total scores on the Attitude Towards Requesting Accommodations scale, Self-Determination Scale, and the Self-Disclosure Scale were significantly different between self-disclosure groups. Data from student interviews uncovered nine factors that seemed to influence SLDs’: (a) decision to disclose and (b) how deeply they disclosed. Four key qualitative findings that arose from this study were: (a) all SLD report having extensive academic difficulty; (b) students who do not disclose seem to rely solely on informal compensating mechanisms rather than formal accommodations; (c) even in favorable circumstances SLDs may not wish to disclose their disability; and (d) SLD experiences with faculty seem to influence why some students disclose more deeply while other students disclose at a surface level.



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