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Self-disclosure by Students with Invisible Disabilities: A Narrative Study
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An increase in the population of students with invisible disabilities is being felt across the nation. Extensive research acknowledges the challenges and barriers faced by these students, in addition to the impact that this demand is having on student support and resources. This qualitative narrative study sought to understand the lived experiences of students with invisible disabilities who were confronted with the decision to self-disclose their disability to their academic faculty. Additionally, this study proposed to understand the factors that led to self-disclosure, how the participants navigated the experience, and their perceptions of the process as it related to emotional well-being. A total of twelve participants were selected for the semi-structured and brief follow-up interviews. The four themes are the: a) Process of Self-disclosure, b) Immediate Reaction after Self-disclosure, c) Effects of Self-disclosure, and d) Benefits of Self-disclosure. The salient findings of this study are a need for the differentiation between mental health related vs. non-mental health related disabilities when researching invisible disabilities; that a difference in perception of the need for accommodations may exist between STEM vs. non-STEM taught courses; and the overall experience of self-disclosure is a potentially necessary and benevolent experience for students with invisible disabilities who experience this process. An exploration of future research is warranted, especially as the population of students with invisible disabilities continue to enroll in college.