How Big Is My Problem?

Enrichment Therapies

February 3, 2017

Does your child become overly upset and anxious about tiny things? Do you think your child overreacts to mistakes or changes in their schedule?

Problems can occur in many different social as well as academic settings. They can create challenging behaviors if children are not prepared. Oftentimes, children may have difficulty identifying the difference between a HUGE problem and a tiny problem. They may react to a broken pencil like it was a broken leg.  At Enrichment Therapy and Learning Center (ETLC) we utilize materials from the Social Thinking Curriculum, specifically the  “Size of my problem” created by Michelle Garcia Winner. 

When teaching about different problems, first utilize EXTREMES to get the point across. For example, a “HUGE” problem would be that a tornado went through your town. A “tiny” problem is that you forgot to fill up your water bottle before class started. When teaching this concept, start with the extremes first. You want your child to understand the difference between each of them. Here are a few examples of posters you can create in your own home to help your child with this concept. Read a variety of problems to your child and have them sort which problem goes on which poster. You could also set up containers with labels that say “huge” problem and “tiny” problem- you could then have your child sort the scenarios into each container.

Next, introduce the other levels of problems in similar ways. Use examples that are relatable to your child so that they can refer back to what type of problems fit in each category. The key is to have a discussion with your child as they sort through the problems and discuss why making a mistake while doing a math problem is actually a “tiny” problem. It does not affect other people and it can be fixed easily. “Huge” problems affect a lot of people and do not have a simple fix.

Here are some scenarios for each size problems:

Huge problem: You experience a natural disaster (tornado, earthquake, flood, hurricane); You get lost; Someone close to you passed away

Big problem: Someone you love is in the hospital; You have a broken arm; Your pet is missing; A bad car accident happens

Medium problem: You have the flu; You are in a big fight with your sibling; You get your blood drawn or a shot; You get grounded

Little problem: You raised your hand but the teacher doesn’t call on you; Your favorite video game is broken; You have been waiting for more than 30 minutes at the doctors office; You lose your favorite shirt; You are asked to stop or put away something you enjoy doing; You don’t get to sit by your best friend

Tiny Problem: You made a mistake on a paper, You were told that the plans need to change, You forgot what you are supposed to be working on, you are playing a game with another student and you lose, You arrived late to class

Now your child should be able to identify the size of the problem based on the situation.  Look for my next blog on regulating emotional reactions to match the size of the problem that has occurred.

Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center has locations in the Iowa City, IA area and Des Moines, IA area. We provide individual speech-language therapy and tutoring as well as offering small group academic programs.  At Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center our passion is to help kids achieve effective communication skills and gain academic success.  Contact us for more information on how we can help your child succeed.

740 Community Drive, Unit A

North Liberty, IA 52317


5530 West Pkwy, Suite 300

Johnston, IA 50131


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