Social Skills for Students with Moderate to Severe Disabilities: Can Community Based Instruction Help?

Carissa Hernandez, M.A. 

California State University Dominguez Hills


Saili S. Kulkarni, Ph.D.

California State University Dominguez Hills


The purpose of this research study was to determine how Community Based Instruction (CBI) affects the social skills of middle school students with moderate to severe disabilities.  Community Based Instruction is instruction that takes place outside of the school campus and provides students with real life experiences that can help them become more independent individuals and members of society. CBI differs from typical field trips in that CBI outings are IEP based and focus on practicing functional skills that have been practiced in the classroom.  The goal is for students with disabilities to begin to generalize these skills in different environments with decreasing amounts of prompting. Existing literature is limited in findings related to the influence of CBI on middle school students with moderate to severe disabilities. This qualitative study was completed using interviews and observations over the time frame of six months.  Participants included students, teachers, and paraeducators from a middle school in Southern California.  The findings of this study are intended to support the use of CBI in middle school special education classrooms and to demonstrate how a functional program can improve the social skills of students with moderate to severe disabilities.  Educators and administrators who may want more information on CBI and its benefits may also utilize the findings. 

Keywords: Community Based Instruction (CBI), severe disabilities, Autism

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