Pros and Cons of Disclosing Learning and Attention Issues at College


By Rae Jacobson, Understood.org

From the time you apply to college to the start of classes, you’ll have many new decisions to make. Choosing if, when, and how to disclose her learning attention issues will be one of the biggest. Here are some factors to consider.

Disclosure During the Application Process

Pros

  • Disclosing a learning or attention issue when applying can help schools get a better picture of you and how you learn.
  • Let’s say your grades or SAT scores fall below the average for that school. Disclosing can help admissions officers understand the issues behind the scores.

Cons

  • It’s not common, but some schools have an uninformed view of learning and attention issues. They may see them as a barrier to entry.
  • In those cases, the schools might not be a good fit for students who learn differently, anyway.

Things to know

  • You don’t have to disclose when applying. And just talking to college officials about potential services and supports isn’t the same as disclosing. You’re free to ask as many questions as you want.
  • If you want to disclose, you have to put something in writing on your application.

Disclosure to Disability Services

Pros

  • By disclosing here (after you have enrolled in college), you are formally applying for services. (There are no IEPs in college, however, and services may vary.)
  • Disclosing doesn’t just help with your courses. It can also help you with social issues by building communication skills. And it gives you access to professionals who understand your issues.

Cons

  • This is a win-win situation. Disclosing to disability services doesn’t mean you have to use the supports offered. It just gives you the option.

Things to know

  • Disability service staff members won’t share your information without your permission. Not with your professors, not with your parents. In fact, staff members won’t discuss you with your parents at all unless you sign a release form saying that it’s OK.

 Disclosure to Professors

Pros

  • Opening up a dialogue with professors about your learning and attention issues is a great way to build self-advocacy skills, which you’ll probably find helpful in the working world, too.
  • Many college classes are large and professors don’t always have the time to get to know individual students.
  • Taking the initiative to talk with your professors helps them put a face to your name. It also shows them that you’re taking an active role in your education.
  • Disclosing in your professors will help them to support you in class and out of class. (If you have disclosed to disabilities services, you’ll be able to provide your professors with a letter from disability services listing your approved accommodations.)

Cons

  • Not all professors will be open to helping. Some may only provide the formal accommodations you have – and nothing more.
  • You won’t know how your professors will react until you talk to them.

Things to know

  • You can pick and choose which professors you’d like to discuss your issues with, and how you want to bring it up.
  • For example: If you have dyscalculia, it might help to talk with your math professor. But you don’t have to share that information with your literature professor.
  • If you’re disclosing to disability services, you might want to wait for them to give you the official paperwork regarding accommodations before you talk to your professors.

 Disclosing to Friends and Classmates

Pros

  • Disclosing to peers can be a great way to build a supportive community at college. And it’s a way to practice self-advocacy.
  • It can help you connect with other students who also have learning and attention issues. Knowing you’re not alone may boost your confidence.
  • Friends can also support your efforts. For example, if you can’t got to a party because you haven’t finished your work yet, they’ll understand and not pressure you.

Cons

  • Sharing important personal information with new friends can feel scary. You won’t know what their reaction will be until you do it. It may also expose you to other people’s misperceptions of what learning and attention issues are.

Things to know

  • Opening up about your learning and attention issues isn’t just about the support you can find. It’s an invitation for your friends to share their challenges as well.
  • You may find yourself in a position where you can help and support other students in similar situations. That can be a very enriching experience.

Making the transition to college can be harder for students with learning and attention issues. Disclosing your issues allows you to get as much support as possible. Talk over the pros and cons with your parents or other trusted adults. Their continued support is as important as ever as you take this exciting step forward.


Reprinted courtesy of Understood.org © 2015 Understood, LLC. All rights reserved.

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