Since my son has had community based instruction on his IEP for almost a decade, I can always spot the CBI trips when I am out in my local community. To the untrained eye, it looks like just a bunch of kids out at the grocery store or local restaurant.

But, if you look closer, you’ll probably see teachers and therapists with clipboards. And, they are often prompting students as they move throughout the venue. My son’s school has a heavy focus on community based instruction and it is one of the main reasons I wanted that placement for him.

being at the barber shop can be community based instruction
Yes, a barber shop is the community.

What is CBI?

 CBI stands for community-based instruction. It’s another one of those special education acronyms you may hear at IEP meetings.

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CBI is a data-driven, guided outing that occurs in a natural setting where the student can work toward an IEP goal. Community based instruction most often happens in placements where the student is in a life skills program. However, if your child is not ready to graduate at 18 and still needs some assistance, I have seen a lot of CBI take place from ages 18-21.

While you typically will see community based instruction happening at transition age or older, there is NOTHING in IDEA that says that this is the only time it can happen. My son has been doing it since kindergarten, as have all the other kids at his school.

It also doesn’t say anywhere that community based instruction is only for life skills students. If your child is in mostly gen ed programs, yes, getting pulled out for CBI outings will be a challenge. It’s also a thought hurdle for the IEP team to overcome, as they typically only ever have life skills students do community based instruction.

You’re going to have to decide if you want to push this issue, or do it after school on your own time.

IDEA addresses this as part of a student’s transition plan. If your child needs CBI, transition is the latest time that you should be adding it to the IEP.

My son has been receiving it since kindergarten.

From IDEA: Statute/Regs Main Â» Regulations Â» Part B Â» Subpart A Â» Section 300.43 Â»

(a) Transition services means a coordinated set of activities for a child with a disability that—

(1) Is designed to be within a results-oriented process, that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of the child with a disability to facilitate the child’s movement from school to post-school activities, including postsecondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation;

(2) Is based on the individual child’s needs, taking into account the child’s strengths, preferences, and interests; and includes—

(i) Instruction;

(ii) Related services;

(iii) Community experiences;

(iv) The development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives; and

(v) If appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and provision of a functional vocational evaluation.

A young boy with a smile participates in community-based instruction, holding onto a shopping cart in a grocery store aisle.

Instruction and Community Experience

See? It says both in IDEA!

A natural setting is a setting within the students’ own community. It is a neighborhood setting. It’s a place that the student will frequent as an adult to live a more independent life.

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A laundromat is a natural setting because this is a setting where the student is likely to frequent as an adult to live an independent life. Other examples of natural settings are the library, the bank, the post office, and the grocery store.

What is not a natural setting: a washer and dryer in a life skills classroom. That may be a starting point, as far as putting the clothes in. But the student should still experience having strangers there with him/her, choosing which washer and dryer to use vs which ones are occupied, how to get quarters, and so on.

A life skills classroom can talk about meal planning and choosing items to eat. But being able to go into a grocery store with $25 and come out with enough items to prepare a dinner are entirely different skills from meal planning.

Recreation is Included in CBI.

The reason that CBI should occur for IEP students is that these students often have trouble generalizing and learning abstract skills. Making appropriate use of leisure and recreation time is not a skill that comes naturally to everyone. For this reason, some IEP teams may pooh-pooh the idea of a bowling or arcade outing for CBI, but it is just as necessary.

This is why they leave the classroom–to get out there in the community and practice the skills needed for adult independent living.

When you think of all the communication, planning, and scenarios that are involved in a bowling outing, you can see how some students would need direct instruction in that. Some may not even know their own shoe size or where to find that information!

Learning can be fun. So ignore the naysayers who say “Gee! Wish I could go bowling or fishing for my school day!” There is more teaching and learning going on than most people realize.

CBI on your IEP

Remember that IEPs are needs-driven. To get supports and services on an IEP, you have to have a goal.

To have a goal, you need baseline data (from IEP evaluations) that demonstrates that this is a need for your child.

If you’re a parent, that’s your starting point. Make sure that evaluations have been done to determine if this is a need for your child.

CBI and Data Collection

Just like with any classroom lesson or IEP goal, there is a component of data collection. Baselines should have already been developed.

There should be a pre-test to determine the trip goals, data collection during the trip, and post-assessment data. There must be an assessment of the student and his needs to determine where would be an appropriate setting.

 What is the difference between CBI and a Field trip?

Community-Based Instruction differs from the traditional field trip in that instruction is cumulative. The same skills are instructed and assessed from week to week. The emphasis is on the acquisition and application of functional and age-appropriate skills in the natural setting.

Field trips are NOT Community-Based Instruction and are NOT a legitimate substitute for systematic instruction in functional, age-appropriate skills in natural settings. Because they tend to be episodic, one-time activities, student needs for consistency, repeated practice, and systematic generalization are difficult to address in the context of a field trip.

Students with developmental disabilities should participate in field trips with grade-level age-peers in the context of an inclusion activity depending on their placement.

Presumably, if this is the case, specific IEP goals relating to socialization, communication, behavior and academic skills are addressed. However, activities of this sort do NOT constitute, nor are they a substitute for, Community-Based Instruction.

IEP Goals for CBI

These are just some examples. I have a much larger list in the IEP Transition Goal Bank.

  • Purchasing an item at the store-correct amount of money, appropriate purchase, necessary purchase, waiting in line, waiting for their change.
  • Able to read and heed community signs, stranger danger, walking rules, traffic safety.
  • using community resources such as post-office (why, what’s it for?) or pharmacy
  • using a telephone in the community if they do not own one; seeking help in the community if they are out by themselves and need it
  • public transportation such as riding a bus or taking a taxi; reading schedules, paying, etc.
  • Social Skills greeting others, personal space especially while waiting in line, behavior skills, requesting information, asking directions, restaurant skills such as ordering and waiting patiently for food.
  • Personal Money Management– Examples budgeting, opening a bank account, making grocery lists, food stamps/EBT if appropriate, using an ATM, paying for a purchase. 
  • Personal Hygiene-Do they know how to use personal hygiene products, where to purchase, what to purchase? Can they do laundry? Do they know when to do laundry?
  • Vocational- Examples are completing a job task, interacting with others in a job setting, time management, work-site behavior, and specific job skills, time management, organization, arriving on time, taking breaks on time.
  • Recreation/Leisure– Examples are library skills, navigating and performing a fitness routine at the local YMCA, renting a movie, purchasing craft supplies, and making a craft; identifying recreational activities and knowing how to access them.

Progress Monitoring and Community Based Instruction

Community environments should be visited repeatedly so that the students can learn and then practice target skills. Community based instruction is not just exposing students to different environments; its purpose is to master target goals and skills.

In order to assess, create a target goal, work on the target goal, and provide maintenance of the mastered skills then students need to go to the same place multiple times. 

CBI Community Based Instruction

Lastly, here is a great handout. It’s for the state of PA, but it’s a great list of discussion items for IEP teams when considering Community Based Instruction for a student.

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