Date of Award


Degree Type

Creative Project

Degree Name

Master of Education (MEd)


Communicative Disorders and Deaf Education

Committee Chair(s)

Lauri Nelson


Elizabeth Parker


Sonia Manuel-Dupont


Lisa Boyce


Sampson is a 4-year-old preschooler. It is difficult for him to make friends, understand simple social settings, and interact with peers. He struggles to interpret incoming contextual information (such as talking to a peer about the blocks they are playing with), has difficulty comprehending non-literal/figurative expressions (such as jokes and irony), and implicit messages (such as when a child does not want to play with him). Sampson’s difficulties increase his risk of social isolation and lower self-esteem.

This vignette offers a glimpse into the challenges faced by children with low social/emotional skills. The social use of language, often referred to as pragmatics, is a skill learned early in life by typically developing children (Geurts, & Embrechts, 2010). To become a competent language user, children must learn to appropriately play the role of speaker and listener and understand how they interact (Toe, Beattie & Barr, 2007).

Children are social beings, and as such, need to learn the skills necessary to build relationships in a social world. The appropriate use of social language is complicated (Kostelnik, Whiren, Soderman & Gregory, 2006). Even with the most basic social exchange, such as conversational turn taking, proper engagement using social skills is required (Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2013). To interact effectively, one must understand various communication contexts and when to use them appropriately. Many judgments must be made in a short amount of time, such as what is polite or impolite based on the relationship with the person, the time, the place, the culture norms, the person’s current status as well as one’s own status (Kostelnik, et al., 2006). For example, the way to greet the school principal is different than the way to greet a best friend. Social/emotional skills may seem intuitive to adults, but children are still in the experimental phase, the trial and error of learning and perfecting social skills (Kostelnik, et al., 2006). It is indeed necessary that children be provided with the tools to appropriately use these skills. In fact, Hartup (1992) contends that, “The single best childhood predictor of adult adaptation is not school grades, and not classroom behavior, but rather, the adequacy with which the child gets along with other children. Children who are generally disliked, who are aggressive and disruptive, who are unable to sustain close relationships with other children, and who cannot establish a place for themselves in the peer culture are seriously at risk". (p. 1) Therefore, social/emotional skills should be evaluated and documented to provide at risk children the instruments for social competence