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We Can Make It Better: A Strategy to Motivate and Engage Young Learners in Social Problem-Solving

We Can Make It Better: A Strategy to Motivate and Engage Young Learners in Social Problem-Solving


Individuals with social learning challenges have multiple opportunities to engage in social activities across a day, but their success greatly depends on the skills and experience they have to negotiate each encounter. Social problem-solving is an important skill for living in a social world. Some have limited skills and experience identifying and solving social dilemmas, which may place them at future risk for being socially isolated. Thus, many educators are seeking additional resources to meet the needs of their students with social learning weaknesses.

We Can Make It Better! is a resource for safe and motivating social problem-solving practice. With the right tools, practice and understanding, students can learn how to make good choices — in their thoughts, actions and words — that result in improved social interactions. With a bank of successes to draw upon and opportunities to generalize their way of thinking to real-life situations, they may increase their potential for positive social interactions in the future.

At the centre of the strategy is a short story that provides opportunities for an individual or small group to identify social dilemmas, express ideas to make the dilemmas better, and gain more understanding in how one person’s behaviour (spoken words and actions) can positively or negatively impact the outcome (relationship) between people.

Each story follows the same sequence, with the introduction of a familiar event or activity (such as playing a board game with a friend) and a set of social dilemmas related to the context. These dilemmas (e.g., cheating at the game, making inappropriate comments, quitting the game when losing) occur between the characters of the story and lead to an undesirable conclusion or natural consequence (e.g., a character reconsiders playing with his or her peer, quits the game and goes home). Each story invites the learners to “make it better,” resulting in active verbal problem-solving and a more preferred ending or outcome to the story.

Engaging and Flexible

The We Can Make It Better! Stories (21 stories) in the book are designed primarily for K-2 kids. However, the story strategy of We Can Make It Better! may be used for immature older students, because teachers, therapists, parents and other caregivers can design their own stories based on their students' ability levels (e.g., create situations that represent their student's needs, written language and illustrations that represent their students' ability levels).

Engaging and Flexible

Elizabeth Delsandro, M.S., CCC-SLP, will be a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, beginning in August 2010. She works with individuals with autism spectrum disorders and social cognitive challenges, focusing on functional communication, social participation, emotional regulation, and peer and community awareness. She has been an autism consultant with the Grant Wood Area Education Agency in the Iowa public school system and an assistive technology trainer in Virginia public schools.

Elizabeth also has worked as a speech-language pathologist in Baltimore public schools and at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. A graduate of West Virginia University, she has taught master’s level courses at George Mason University and Johns Hopkins University. Elizabeth enjoys spending time with her husband, Chris, collecting pottery, painting, taking road trips and appreciating nature.

Authors: Elizabeth M. Delsandro

  • Published: 2010
  • Publisher: Think Social Publishing, Inc.
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 183
  • ISBN: 9780982523131

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