Online Course: Learning to Achieve Legal Issues, Self-Disclosure, and Confidentiality for Adults with Learning Disabilities

The Learning to Achieve Legal Issues, Self-Disclosure, and Confidentiality for Adults with Learning Disabilities course asks users to consider:

  1. How might you improve or add to your intake process to better support self-disclosure by individuals with learning disabilities?
  2. How might you or your organization improve or add to what they currently do to support individuals with suspected learning disabilities to develop the skill of self-disclosure?
  3. How are the confidentiality procedures of your organization carried out? How might you improve, add to, or change them?


As I go through this course, my thoughts are confirmed, that my program really does not have in place any effective method for students to self-disclose. In my ten years of teaching, many students have chosen to self-disclose  their academic struggles to me. However, until recently, we have had no other way of knowing that a student may need additional support in order to be successful. For the past two years I have conducted an additional Needs Assessment for students whose placement test scores are below a certain level. During the assessment, I have the opportunity to gather information that I would otherwise not have access to. I am sure that there are many other students who have scored higher than our self-determined minimum, who could benefit from having the opportunity to self-disclose. All information is kept confidential and is locked in files in my office. I also have in place, a release of information form that I have students complete if I need to contact another agency or program that may be able to provide additional support to the student. As a rule, our program does not officially offer accommodations to students enrolled in our program. At most, we have informed them of the need to have documentation in order to receive accommodations when taking the GED exam. There is much room for growth in this area of our program.

I agree. It is sometimes difficult to know if someone needs accommodations. However, during our intakes, we have a private conversation and give a rather complete list for the student to check. Several times, students have brought up needs through conversations about learning strengths and weaknesses. 

In the environment in which I teach, confidentiality is very important about LD and other issues as well. Students who are also inmates are often guarded about disclosure even when the teacher explains the benefits of doing so.

1. We have a question on the intake form about receiving academic help in the past.

2. We could include support for students about self disclosure and self advocacy  in the future (college and employment).

3. we already keep files secure. there is limited access.

I would improve my current organization's LD/Self-disclosure procedures by adding in teacher/student one-on-one time early in the intake process, having the teacher ask questions that may trigger self-disclosure; currently we have questionnaires that may trigger this.

A standard question at the time a student registers is if the student has a disability or if the student is learning disabled. Body language and tone need to align to the program's interest in learning this information. Perhaps, registrars can add a comment or two about why and how this information can be useful to us and that our only objective is to acquire it in the best interest of the student. We might also include a brief explanation during our initial information session so that prospective students can start to think about their options.

Our program lacks systems, education, and training in this area. There are no shared understandings or processes to address the needs of the student with a disability, whether they disclose or not. I think a random assessment of our staff and their understanding on this topic would prove my first statement true. We've got a lot of work to do in this area.  

Hi, Isabel -

Great idea about the comment on needing to have an explanation of disclosure during initial information sessions with new learners.  I wonder how many programs are doing this already? Maybe it warrants a survey of the members in the Disabilities and Equitable Outcomes community.  What do you think?


Mike Cruse

Disabilities and Equitable Outcomes Moderator


It is important to keep all files private and only have appropriate staff have access. it is also important to not talk about LDs in public where anyone can listen in. 

Hi, Leonidas -

Thanks for your responses to the course!  It sounds like you are reflecting a lot on your experience.  Would you share with us more about your role in working with learners with disabilities?  Do you still have any questions after participating in this course?


Mike Cruse

Disabilities and Equitable Outcomes Moderator

In our adult education program, the intake process is one-on-one.  Although there is a question on the application form for disclosure of a learning disability, the new applicant may not think it is applicable to him or her, may not understand the question, or may be reluctant to disclose.  If the intake person reads through the application with the new applicant, a short discussion could occur in a nonthreatening way which could allow some disclosure that could be addressed at the beginning or could prompt the individual to speak of needing help in some areas of the adult education program.  If we only have the  applicants fill out the application form on their own, that disclosure opportunity may be missed at the beginning of their educational program and only get addressed as the teachers get to know the academic needs of those students.

Hi, Nancy -

Great suggestion about having the intake person in a program 'read through the application with the new applicant', and provide a safe space to disclose any learning challenges/needs.  I wonder how many programs actually take time. to dedicate someone to working with applicants in this way?  It's a great way to save time and energy on the other end, and a greater opportunity to identify learners' needs, so we can support them in adult education programs.

Thanks for sharing!

Mike Cruse

Disabilities and Equitable Outcomes Moderator

PANDA-Minnesota ABE Disability Specialists is a Supplemental Service Provider for Minnesota Adult Basic Education. We developed a document a number of years ago for programs to use  at registration to identify students with disabilities.  This is a proactive approach to help support students and communicate their needs to the teachers.   There is just one question we ask programs to add to their registration forms which is:  "Have you ever been diagnosed with a condition that could impact learning? (i.e. mental health, ADHD, developmental disability, learning disability, brain injury, vision or hearing loss)".    If the student marks "yes", another form is used to ask more questions, such as more information about the disability, if they were ever in special education classes, if they have a case worker, what would help their learning, etc.  If they have a case worker or social worker, they are asked to sign a release of information in order to allow us to communicate with them to support their learning.  

Programs have found this helpful and it is explained to the student that the purpose of gathering more information is to help them academically.

Hi, Wendy-

Thanks for sharing how PANDA-Minnesota ABE Disability Specialists are doing to help adult learners access services.  The two step process you describe is an excellent idea.  The general nature of the initial question is very open-ended, and I'm sure helps you identify some learners who might respond very differently to a more targeted question, asking if a person has a learning disability.  The follow-up questions you ask those persons who self-identify on the first part, are much more focused on helping not only to identify disability, but also connect the learner, and program staff, to resources and supports that will promote learner achievement.  

I'm curious how many other programs are using this type of two-step learner identification process, and what impact it is having on learner self-disclosure?


Mike Cruse

Disabilities and Equitable Outcomes 

Our program does not specifically ask about LD, however the teacher I work with has students write an essay about themselves, where they can disclose as much or as little as they like. She does not share these with me, however she will let me know if a student has mentioned any LD. The bonus about the essay for the students is that it is counted as distance work, so they are ahead on that.

In our program students may self-disclose during the enrollment process. One question asks if they had an IEP in school. They are asked if they know of anything that helped them to learn more effectively and what activities did they have difficulties with. Also they are asked to write an Introductory Paragraph explaining anything that would help the teacher to better meet their needs and probably wouldn't show up on a test.

Our program has stringent rules to protect the confidentiality of our students. Student records are kept locked in the file cabinet and are only accessed by the instructor or administrator. Students are not asked if they have a learning disability, but may self-disclose. Educational plans and Learners guides are shared with the student and tutor. The teacher directs the specific learning activities.

Reading what was in this module has been very enlightening as to what I have observed in the past about my own education. Moving forward we should all be more aware of what we are saying, doing and to a degree thinking. 

I often keep notes about students in a drawer behind my desk - granted these notes are few and far between BUT still notes about assignments or concerns.  Moving forward I think said notes need to be locked up with a key.  I sometimes forget people can be nosey. 

1. Our intake form does provide the opportunity to disclose any learning differences

2. Intake forms are kept in a locked file cabinet

3. The follow up procedure is where my program is lacking. We need a systematized way to take the information to the appropriate accommodations. 

Hi, Shawna -

Thanks for your comments here. I especially appreciate your #3 comment about needing a 'systematized way to take information to the appropriate accommodations'.  What I understand from your comment is that you're looking for a system to help ensure that you're connecting the needs identified through the intake process to accommodations that will help your learners who disclose a learning disability.  Is that correct?  If so, I wonder if you'd like to join me in a LINCS conversation, exploring best practices for connecting intake to accommodations?  I'm happy to talk with you, and hopefully connect members' knowledge and experience to help your program look at options.


Mike Cruse

Disabilities and Equitable Outcomes Moderator

* New students that do check off on application they have a learning disability if documentation is not brought in by the time the testing process is complete and ready to go into the classroom i will remind them to bring in any documentation.

* I am going to be implementing during the intake process a better opportunity for the students to dis-close with or without documentation. Ask students to

    describe your areas of strength and areas you would like to improve.

* Our programs confidentiality procedures is set up very professional. We are constantly aware of our student's rights. I would not change any of our procedures. We keep our students well being in mind at all times.



1.) We have that option on our intake form, but I feel we could encourage it more by letting benefits be known. We just rush passed the item on the form.

2.) I believe that we should provide more information and discuss it more openly. This is a great area for our career/life skills instructor to address with our students while working on future goals.

3.) Our confidentiality procedures are intact. We keep all private information very confidential and do not encourage much disclosure. We never really address the personal deficits or needs. Our students get the same treatment overall. I think this needs work!




We could become more open to strengths and weaknesses, past learning, and provide a more relaxed environment for disclosure of challenges during the intake.

We could provide or information or spend more time on this section of the intake.

Our files should be locked at all times if the disclosure/private information is on the forms.

It is important to respect student's right to confidentiality and only ask for or disclose information for a specific reason that is rooted in the ultimate goal of student achievement. Not being careless with files left out on a teacher's desk as well as keeping confidential information under lock and key or accessible to authorized personnel is a good practice. We could improve on our intake process by being careful to make sure we have consent before asking certain questions and making sure information is used in a purposeful way. 

1. You could frame the question in a way that makes the student feel safe. For example, you could ask about what they believe their strengths and weaknesses are or you could ask about what their positive and negative experiences were in school regarding academics.

2. Our organization could help students develop the skill of self-disclosure by asking students what supports have helped them in the past achieve their goals. When did they feel successful? Who was their favorite teacher in school and why? How did peers help or hinder them from reaching their goals?

3. Student folders and information is kept under lock and key. Teachers are trained not to keep notes about students out on their desks. Social media is used only for publication of students who have completed a program or graduated. 

At our center, each student is interviewed during intake and is encouraged to share their educational goals and past learning experiences, all in a private setting. Most people are aware of their learning experiences and whether or not they differ from other students ability to learn new material. Students usually are comfortable enough to share if they have an learning disability diagnosis or if they have a suspected learning disability. I have never even thought of actually asking a student in class if they want to share that information. 

  Our school does provide the opportunity for students to mark on their intake form if they have a disability that would need accommodations but this information is not shared with everyone.  There is also a success seminar the students attend before starting classes. This is another opportunity the success coaches have to notice if there are individuals who may benefit from different resources or accommodations.  Since I have the first class students attend, I feel it is important for me to also know and understand the process the students need to go thru and to encourage those who may need accommodations to get them.  Many times in our introducing ourselves in the first class, student will volunteer the information that they struggled in school or dropped out due to learning disabilities, yet rarely do I see them take advantage of getting accommodations they may need.  After taking this class, I can see that they may not fully understand what the process is and how/or how to go about fulfilling the steps it takes to get the supports they need.  This class helped me see how being more informed myself about this process, I can better direct the students who need these supports. 

   I also see confidentiality being a key point, as although as mentioned above some student voluntarily give out some information about their struggles, they is most likely the need to some individual time with them to ask more specific questions and encourage them to take action if some resources are available.  The general announcement that the school does have these resources and that I can direct them to them if they choose is also a good idea I will use. 

I like our center's procedure for learning disabilities.  Our teachers talk to students one on one, and we always keep the records under lock and key. We have a very good working relationship with Arkansas Rehabilitation about referring students for special testing and services. 

The intake process does not need to be rushed. In trainings, they have recommended spending an hour with each student at intake to find LD, barriers, and get to know the student so that they get a sense of ownership and belonging right at the front. I believe we should follow these recommendations and not play the teeter-totter for hours and funding points game for NRS/NonNRS blah blah blah... 

Talking ain't doing. And our students and numbers suffer for it, easy math. It all sounds great in training, but if the program does not support the implementation of these tactics, it is lip service to red tape.

The intake process does not need to be rushed. In trainings, they have recommended spending an hour with each student at intake to find LD, barriers, and get to know the student so that they get a sense of ownership and belonging right at the front. I believe we should follow these recommendations and not play the teeter-totter for hours and funding points game for NRS/NonNRS blah blah blah... 

Talking ain't doing. And our students and numbers suffer for it, easy math. It all sounds great in training, but if the program does not support the implementation of these tactics, it is lip service to red tape.

The adult education application already has a disclosure implemented into the application during intake process. I feel that relationships are built at intake which usually allows student to comfortably disclose if they have any disabilities which require accommodations of any type.

 I'm fairly new to adult education, so I'm not that familiar with our program's intake process. I think we use check boxes on our forms. I like what two of the contributors said about an extra "Needs Assessment" for students with low scores, and also the idea of a "Life Coach," who could be seen at any time during the educational process to help students transition to the next step, or as needs arise in their lives.

Our Adult Ed Center is spot on with their LD procedures. We have voluntary disclosure opportunities on our intake forms. Only one person has access to the locked LD files. I don't even know where that file cabinet is located. We attend lot of LD trainings, etc. 

However, I really like the "Life Coach," idea that someone posted! I can see a lot of uses for that position for many of our students, not just LD.



Information is confidential. There is a voluntary disclosure. We probably need to be more effective in teaching students how to advocate properly and what their rights are as adults.

As the Administrative Specialist, I do intake sessions for our program. When completing the intake document with the student, I go through the application with them question by question. I allow the student to elaborate and/or ask questions which opens the line of communication resulting in self-disclosure of LD during intake.

We have a very strict confidentiality policy when completing student intake, especially if an individual discloses they have a LD. Students are required to list the only individuals who may  have access to their file due to the higher standard of confidentiality due to their LD.

Having no background in the study of learning disabilities, this course has been valuable.  I have learned a lot, for instance, about the procedure of detecting a LD and how to possibly assist a student in learning who has such a disability, of course following the procedures and laws.

* Our Intake Form has a field where students can choose to disclose a LD or any other disability.  If they check "yes" in either of those fields, they are scheduled to meet with the ADA Coordinator.  The Intake Form also includes a page where students sign/date and give permissions to staff members who are allowed to view records concerning the disability.

*All Psychological Evaluations/Reports, Academic Selection Records, etc. are kept locked in the ADA Coordinator's private office and anyone who is on the prior approval list signed by student, must get permission to view confidential records and sign the log record.

*The student, along with guidance provided by the ADA Coordinator, is responsible for applying for GED Accommodations via GEDTS.  

Learning disabilities and those inflicted by them need to possible have a life coach who has completed his or her goals while having a learning disability. It is a way to provide a possible source of motivation.