Pennsylvania Parents and Caregivers Resource Network
Community Based Instruction


Community experiences, by definition, are those services provided outside of the school building, in community settings, or perhaps by schools or other agencies (community-based work experiences, job site training programs, banking, shopping, transportation, community counseling, recreational services, independent living centers, adult services providers, etc.).

Although these activities are generally considered for children receiving transition services - beginning at 16 years of age under IDEA 97, for younger children with more severe disabilities, these services are important as well. Community based experiences and activities connect school learning to community learning in the actual environments in which the student will apply them.


Many youngsters with disabilities simply cannot generalize skills well enough to learn them in a classroom and have them carry over into real life community situations.


As with most services for children with disabilities, Community Based Instruction (CBI) starts with an evaluation.

  • What are the interests of the student?
  • What are the strengths of the student?
  • What are the needs of the student?
  • What are the available resources in the community?
  • Which of these resources will lend themselves to meeting the studentís needs?
  • Develop a 'vision' for the studentís future.


The answers to the following questions should lead to a plan for Community Based Instruction.

  • Can the student express his/her need for support services or accommodations?
  • What public transportation is available for the student?
  • Does the student need ongoing special transportation arrangements.
  • How does the student act in social situations?
  • Is the student aware of and able to follow the law?
  • Is the student able to purchase and prepare food?
  • Is the student able to use and manage money?
  • Does the student maintain personal hygiene?
  • What type of supports for these areas does the student need?
  • Where might that support come from after graduation?



Ideally, the IEP team should be looking at the community as a resource but, frequently, they do not. What do you have in your community? How can each location be used to meet the goals of the student? No matter how small your area, many of the following resources exist.

  • Bank
  • Grocery store
  • Library
  • Fast food restaurant
  • Shopping center or mall
  • Dry cleaners
  • Post Office


  • Walk around town
  • Check the phone book
  • Speak to owners/managers/employees in various locations
  • Share your vision


  • Communication skills
  • Functional life skills
  • Vocational skills
  • Social skills
  • Recreation/Leisure


In a very practical way, each community location can offer an opportunity to learn and practice the skills which are needed for adult living. The following is an example of a consolidated plan of activities and how they are tied together.

  • At school a menu is planned.
  • A shopping list is developed.
  • Cost of items on the shopping list are estimated.
  • Transportation is arranged (or planned) for trip to grocery store.
  • Using the layout of the store, items are selected to fulfill the shopping list.
  • When paying for the groceries, the change is counted.
  • Lunch is prepared by the student on return to school.
  • Lunch can be shared with other students or school staff.

This activity can be used to offer an opportunity to order and purchase lunch in the community during the shopping trip and save the food that is purchased to prepare another meal. Students can 'run errands' during shopping trip for school staff. Lists of items needed can be collected from staff. Students can purchase items to hold a bake sale in school. Monies earned can be used to pay for a trip or special activities around the school. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination!

(Created by Ruth Landsman of Parents Exchange for PPCRN.)

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