We Can Make It Better: Social Problem Solving Through Flexible Stories


by Elizabeth Delsandro

Ages 4-8

This inspiring book helps kids learn to read social cues through short, cartoon-style stories about two friends, who inadvertently hurt each other’s feelings. Students describe what’s going on in each illustration and consider the connection between the character’s behaviour, how it makes others think and feel, and the related consequences. By sharing ideas about better choices the characters might make, students engage in group problem solving, perspective taking and social-emotional learning. Lessons included on a CD for easy printing.

Buying Tip: A story-based tool to teach early learners how a person’s actions affect others’ thoughts and emotions. This book gives you clear teaching templates that help children understand when their behaviours create “not so good thoughts” and provides strategies to to help children “make it better”.

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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 center 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).

About the Author

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.

What People are Saying

  • Karin Turner McKeone – School Social Worker

    “Liz Delsandro has created a simple yet profound approach to teaching children about social interactions. Students love the We Can Make It Better! stories and are eager to participate in helping story characters Bob and Maria with their social problems. The program’s support materials help adults to identify the important thoughts and feelings resulting from the social scenario and promote active problem-solving from our students. Social skills instruction has never been this much fun!”

  • Mary M. Kirk – School Social Worker

    “Bob and Maria have become our ‘friends’ in my social skills small group of 2nd graders. The children quickly learned to predict and problem solve, right along with Bob and Maria. And because the stories are written in so many familiar social contexts—the school playground, birthday parties, ice skating, and summer vacation— I witnessed these children ‘making it better’ in their own social lives.”

  • Liz Furlong – SLP

    “Through the adventures of Liz Delsandro’s characters, Bob and Maria, students with social cognitive challenges are provided the opportunity to learn and develop social thinking and related social skills in an enjoyable and engaging format. In my experience using the ‘We Can Make It Better!’ stories, students develop a connection to the characters and are eager to learn about the new adventures each session, thus providing a strong foundation for teaching and developing a variety of ways to approach different situations. By reflecting on what the characters are ‘doing, thinking, and feeling’ throughout each story, the students have multiple opportunities to process and analyze verbal and nonverbal behaviors—a process that the students then apply to problem solve through their own social experiences. With the help of Bob and Maria, I believe that ‘we can make it better!’ for all of our students.”

  • David Brandon – Special Education Facilitator

    “I have used the Bob and Maria stories with many students. They love the stories! The stories really get the students engaged and spark conversations about how ‘we can make it better!’ They’re also kid-friendly and readable for multiple age and ability levels.”

Publishing Info

  • Published: 2010
  • Publisher: Think Social Publishing, Inc.
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 183
  • Item 3131

Additional information

Weight 0.80 g
Dimensions 5 × 5 × 5 cm

Young Children, Primary School, Parents & Professionals


Elizabeth M Delsandro

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