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Goodness of Fit

“When men come to like a sea-life, they are not fit to live on land.” 

Samuel Johnson

ImageWhen I was in high school I worked at a shoe store.  We had that old silver tool to determine the size of shoe that would fit.  It was rarely accurate, as it didn’t take into account various manufacturing processes, but it was a gauge for closeness.  Parents came in, not even sure of their child’s shoe size as they had grown so much recently.  These parents often wanted shoes with a lot of “wiggle room” so they would last awhile – measured by a full thumb distance from the toe to the end of the shoe.  The parents knew what was best.

Later, when I was an elementary school teacher I used a different type of tool to determine a different type of size for fit – evaluation of study ability.  It was here that I applied my college special education minor to assess needed and appropriate services for students that may or may not have a learning disability.  Parents came in to the IEP meeting, not even sure of their child’s needs themselves as things had gotten out of control recently.  These parents wanted services with a lot of “wiggle room” so that all bases would be covered – measured now by how often they had to leave the classroom and other accommodations within the educational environment.  The parents knew what was best.

Until day one of our class, I hadn’t thought about the persistency of these students’ learning disability into adult life or the role of self-advocacy they had to take on.  In particular, I had never thought of MY role in shaping their adult success.  I remember encouraging parents (and my friends who had children who were provided services) to advocate for their children because if they didn’t they could never be sure someone else was.  Anne Ford concurs, “Neither status nor wealth matters as much as your support.  The simple fact is that you – the parent – are the most powerful advocate your child will ever have.”

What I don’t recall is what I did, beside comply with the IEP and provide as strong of a mainstream environment as possible, to work with the students on determining “goodness of fit” for themselves, on strengthening their self-esteem.  This was not in the teaching curriculum.

The National Adult Literacy and Learning Disability Center suggests four ways to strengthen self-esteem:

  • Awareness – knowing about and documenting
  • Assessment – understanding strengths and weaknesses
  • Accommodation – knowing what compensatory strategies and techniques help
  • Advocacy – knowing legal rights and services for which qualified

I wish I would have known about the NALLD back then.  In the Dale Brown article, he states “It has not been easy for me to find my place in society as an LD adult.  It took hard work, self-discipline, and positive thinking.  I had to demand the training that was needed in each situation.”  These are skills I could have taught in addition to core subject areas.

It’s funny how the image that came to mind when I first heard the term “goodness of fit” was of my shoe selling days.  As the old saying goes, “if the shoe fits, wear it – if the style’s wrong, change it.”  Perhaps this is a good analogy for what adults with learning disabilities face – constantly assessing the ‘norm’ with the silver tool, but adjusting the size for their foot based on style and manufacturer.  As Reiff and Telander put it, “Success entail(s) a continuous process of confronting one’s strengths and weaknesses and making adjustments.”  This is Goodness of Fit.


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