What is community-based instruction (CBI)? How is CBI different from field trips?

Community-based instruction is education that is based in community environments as opposed to highly controlled locations such as schools or center-based programs. Community-based instruction is not the same as field trips. Field trips are excursions by a group of people to a place away from their normal environment. While field trips can be enjoyable and educational, they are not designed to teach learners specific skills within the natural environment. The purpose of CBI is to teach learners skills in the community.

Examples of CBI

Some examples of CBI are learning to:

    • wait at a physician’s or dentist’s office
    • accept a dental cleaning
    • cooperate with a physician for a yearly physical
    • properly greet neighbors on a walk
    • sit quietly through a religious service
    • buy groceries at a supermarket
    • walk nicely through a neighborhood without bolting
    • take public transportation
    • do a volunteer job
    • do a paying job
    • eat at a restaurant without disrupting other diners

Field Trips versus CBI

Going to the supermarket could be a field trip. If there are no goals and objectives to teach the learner to improve in that environment, then it isn’t CBI. If we want the individual to learn to go into the supermarket, select and purchase an item, wait in line, and pay, all without incident, this is CBI.

Not Easy

It is not an easy feat to teach these skills to a learner with behavioral difficulties. However, when the learner masters these skills, s/he will have better access to the community and a more meaningful life. A group home or shared living environment can be extremely isolating and not very stimulating if a learner does not possess the skills required to go into the community. Just because an individual lives in a house or apartment in the community, that does not mean s/he has access to the community.

Why is CBI so Difficult?

A school or center-based program is a controlled environment. In the community, multiple factors play a role. There is uncertainty involved. For instance, the learner might have to stand in a longer line than planned or the item he wants might not be available. The learner must cope with all of the variables the environment might present. This has to be taught to some individuals.

How Do You Teach CBI?

The instruction would vary according to the goals and objectives and the skill level of the learner. However, in order to be successful with coping with the many variables that could occur, this type of instruction requires frequent opportunities for acquiring this knowledge.

The following Organization for Autism Research (OAR) video on Transition to Adulthood with Dr. Peter Gerhardt does an excellent job explaining what community based instruction is. It also provides excellent instructions on how to do CBI.

Obtaining CBI for Your Learner

Families can try to advocate for their child to receive community-based instruction from their child’s school. This could be written into the student’s individual education plan (IEP). Community-based instruction could also be written into a transition (to adulthood) program. Families of adults can also request community-based instruction from an adult service provider.

Because CBI is challenging to deliver, schools and corporate providers are extremely reluctant to provide it. Therefore, sometimes parents step in and provide this type of instruction to their children and adults.
Community-based instruction will become more available to disabled individuals when government policy requires it. Access to CBI is essential instruction for all individuals with behavior challenges.

Community based instruction is essential for people on the autism spectrum.
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