Helping Special Education Students Become Valuable Members of our Community

November 10, 2016 | By More

By Megan Howell, Imago Dei School Principal

Where did your high school student go in the last few weeks? To the mall with friends to see a movie? To Target to purchase socks, school supplies or other necessities? Maybe to a restaurant to grab a bite to eat with family or friends?

These are typical activities that are developmentally appropriate for most teens to participate in independently. However, many teens with developmental disabilities like autism find navigating these typical environments challenging without adult support. Community based instruction (CBI) as an integral aspect of special education provides students with modeling, support and practice to help students gain the skills and experience necessary to be independent.

The student and community benefits of this specialized style of instruction are significant. Current research suggests the following positive results from community-based instruction coupled with ongoing classroom support and guidance.

Student benefits include:

  • Increased appropriate social communication
  • Development of specific skills critical to the student’s individual independent functioning in the community
  • Increase of ability to successfully navigate public transportation
  • Development of age appropriate social skills necessary for successful community participation
  • Increase in safety awareness and identification of safe community partners


Community benefits:

  • Increased positive community awareness of realistic potential of individuals with disabilities
  • Increased partnership with private businesses who have cooperatively provided instructional settings appropriate for the learning needs of students with disabilities

Community engagement is critical for a well rounded special education experience. It is a vital step in building independent, courageous students who can live up to their God-given potential and become productive, valuable members of the community.

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