Real life experience provides the best opportunity for developing important daily living skills. Developing community based instruction is a way to reinforce the skills that students with a severe handicap or visual impairment are developing during the school day.
Defining Goals and Objectives
When deciding on community based instruction for a student with severe disabilities or visual impairments, it is important to consider the short and long term goals of the student. This will help you develop a program that fits the student’s individual educational needs. For example, if a student with a severe visual impairment is working on mobility and communication, a fast food restaurant that requires them to order food and locate a seat and condiments can be a purposeful and educational outing. Another student who already has those skills but has vocational goals that involve busing tables could benefit from the same location while doing a different activity. You would not simply want to take that student out to lunch since it would serve no educational purpose.
Finding the Right Location
Depending on the location of your school and your options for transportation, there might not be a lot of choices. However, if you do have several options, it is important to visit the places and consider what it will be like for the student when they are there. For example, if the aisles in a grocery store are close together, a student in a wheel chair might have difficulty maneuvering through the store to complete goals. A place that will be especially crowded when you are there might be difficult for a student with autism who is overwhelmed by a lot of people. Also, students with visual impairments that are just beginning to learn mobility might be more successful in locations with fewer obstacles.
Once you find the perfect location, the most important thing you can do is to prepare. For skills that involve being behind the scenes of where normal customers are allowed, it is necessary to communicate with the location. Find out exactly what job or skill the student will be working on and practice it while at school so that you can figure out what adaptations or assistive technology might be necessary. Go through what each student will be doing and pack them each an individual bag with what they will need. For example, if a student is going to have to order lunch, make sure include any necessary communication devices or pictures so they can do this successfully. For a student that will be greeting people at a grocery store by pressing a switch, program the device ahead of time so it will be ready to go as soon as you are there. Make sure to consider hygiene issues that might come up and pack accordingly.
Make it Positive
The most important thing is to ensure that the student is working towards educational goals and that they enjoy the experience. If a student becomes overwhelmed after 20 minutes, you do not want to plan community based instruction for an hour. As the school year progresses, you can work towards extending the time that you are out. Try to leave on a positive note to alleviate anxiety the next time you have an activity outside of the school.