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What types of community based instruction are out there?

Empty city bus seats.

At a Glance

Exploring CBI Locations: Examining how grocery stores, movie theaters, restaurants, transportation systems, and job sites can be used for effective Community-Based Instruction.

Skill Development: The specific skills that can be highlighted and practiced through CBI activities, such as navigating public spaces, interacting with community members, and understanding various norms and procedures.

Addressing Challenges: Discussing potential obstacles in certain CBI settings and matching strategies for creating a supportive learning environment for each student.

Welcome back to our Community-Based Instruction (CBI) series, where we are exploring this valuable activity from the basics to guidelines for implementing your own CBI activity. In part 1 we talked about both what constitutes CBI and the types of CBI that can be most valuable to students. 

In part 2 we are taking a closer look at some common examples of CBI activities and locations, the types of skills they can help with, and some common challenges to look out for in those locations. One thing worth remembering as we all live in unique communities with different opportunities available is that a good way to measure if a location is a suitable candidate for a CBI outing is whether you can clearly identify a particular skill students can work on during that outing. 

If you are interested in seeing us go deeper into the specifics of different examples of CBI then we would love to hear from you! Send us an email at and let us know what types of CBI activities you’d like to hear more about! In the meantime let’s take a look at 5 common examples of CBI outings!

Grocery Store

One great benefit of Community-Based Instructions is that you can help to make a place that might normally invoke high pressure and overwhelming situations and turn it into a reasonably safe space where students can practice navigating the specific challenges of that location. 

Grocery stores are an optimal example of this dynamic, as being able to shop effectively is a valuable life skill and one that autistic adults regularly cite as a problem. While we unfortunately don’t have much control over whether grocery stores ever become more friendly to autistic shoppers, having the time to practice navigating this space to make sure their needs are met can make navigating those spaces as an adult more familiar and manageable. Even if there are still elements that can be overwhelming, having tools to manage those situations can make a world of difference!

Of course the flipside in terms of challenges that can pop up during such an outing is that even in a practice setting navigating the grocery store can be an overwhelming experience. Once you have made your shopping list how do you choose between the 4 brands of the same product? If the lights are too bright or noisy do we have any tools to mitigate those sensory inputs? And if a student does become overwhelmed or frustrated do we have a safety valve that allows space to decompress and/or regulate? 

These are all challenges that can be addressed with good communication and preparation, but they are not the type of challenge you want to be surprised by!

Movie Theater

A trip to the movie theater has lots of benefits compared to a more choice heavy outing like a grocery store. A movie theater is a space with a special protocol for receiving the service that it offers, and learning such protocols are valuable independent living skills. While it can sometimes feel like choosing an activity associated with leisure might be harder to justify, pursuing leisure activities is just as much a part of independent living as doing chores or running errands. The movie theater in particular is a great place to practice because new movies come out every week, so students can learn the same procedure and have access to a huge variety of different options. 

In addition, because a movie outing inherently requires some prep and planning you have a degree of control around the parameters of the outing and things like which movie you are seeing, who handles the ticketing and check in portions, and whether getting snacks from concessions will be part of the process.

One challenge associated with movie theaters that we alluded to previously is that sometimes leisure outings take on a connotation that makes it harder to justify. If you need approval from gatekeepers to have such an outing and one of them decides going to see a movie is a little too frivolous then there is not much you can do about it! If you are keen on a movie outing, it helps to be prepared to answer the question “Why not do [X] instead?”

One other challenge related to movie theaters is that there are some social norms that other moviegoers may feel entitled to try to enforce, leading to potential conflict in a way that is a little less likely in other contexts. One way to mitigate this challenge ahead of time is to try to coordinate with the theater ahead of time. They may be able to identify a time that would be optimal for minimizing that risk or even offer a reserved space where there is less risk of conflict over a minor etiquette breach. 

It is another case where it is worth taking a couple extra steps to ensure that the outing feels safe and students can focus on practicing their skills and in the case of a movie theater enjoy the show!


Restaurants serve a great dual purpose - they can often be justified as an outing on the basis that students will need to get lunch anyway and can feel like a big special trip even if it’s just walking to the Pizza Hut down the street. Because there is such a wide variety of restaurant business models out there, there are all types of skills you can practice based on what you feel would most benefit students and what types of restaurants are in your area. 

Whether ordering off a menu or at the counter or one of the other little variations you can take on depending on the restaurant, it can be both a fun experience and one that doesn’t have to take up an excessive amount of time. Unlike some of these other CBI options, if there is a restaurant close enough to you it can easily fit into a school day schedule. 

The drawback of restaurants is fairly similar to that of movie theaters, in that it can be seen more as a leisure activity and therefore harder to justify with gatekeepers. That being said, restaurants can also be a much lower commitment outing than a movie theater or other sites which might feature more practical life skills and students still need to eat lunch! 

Beyond that, some restaurants may be more welcoming than others and unlike movie theaters may find themselves busier at times when you could bring your students and not as willing to accommodate practice. Of course that is the exact type of situation that can be resolved by checking ahead and finding points of contact in the locations that seem promising.

Using Transportation

Transportation is about as practical a life skill as you’ll get and one that comes with a fair number of pitfalls whether it’s sensory overload, following protocol, or the potential consequences of making a mistake. It can require a fair bit of research to find out which routes are most relevant to a given student and a fair bit of work to put together tools that will be most helpful to their specific needs, and having real world practice with a safe supportive person there to help if needed can make a big difference in nailing down the routine and navigating the challenges that can arise during a commute.

One major drawback of transportation however is that while you may be lucky and live in an area that can offer some form of accommodation to create a safe practice environment, there is also a decent chance that this type of outing will involve navigating the transportation system as it exists and not necessarily having a go-to contact there to help. 

With that reality in mind, being prepared to meet the needs of students, be it with sensory items or a plan to find a decompression space if someone becomes overwhelmed, and including enough supporters to ensure a reasonably safe bubble can make a big difference in terms of making space for practicing the protocol and skills associated with travel rather than just trying to get through it.

Job Sites

One thing that we will note about job sites right away is that it’s sometimes treated as its own branch of learning and can exist under different names such as Work-Based Learning Experiences (WBLE) (which we will be covering later this year!). 

Ultimately CBI and WBLE are just meant to be helpful categories and the exact label you put on a given outing should not be as important as what you expect students will be getting out of it. That being said, for the purposes of this series we will be thinking of CBI job site outings as more one-off experiences whereas WBLE would more likely be a repeating experience with more specific job goals.

A great benefit to job site community based outings is that students can hone in on broad skill sets that would apply to lots of jobs. A great classic example is the very act of receiving instruction on a new task at the workplace. Particularly for procedure oriented jobs, even if we already broadly know how to do a particular task there is often a specific way that different job sites want the procedure to be carried out. The more practice students have with learning those procedures, the easier it is to pick up on new jobs and hit the ground running. In a world where autistic adults seeking employment are not always offered fair and reasonable accommodations, having some practice navigating those spaces can make a big difference.

One drawback to trying to plan this kind of trip is mapping out exactly what you are hoping students will learn and finding a site that can help you do it. If you are lucky there may be a place near you that offers forms of vocational training and would be willing to offer their time and space. Alternately it may take some research and contacting various businesses to see if any of them would be amenable to such an arrangement.

One reason to consider a more long term Work-Based Learning Experience is that after all that effort to build such an arrangement you may as well put it to good use! But a broader one time CBI outing can also be a valuable and enriching experience for students who aren’t sure exactly what they want to do but also know that they intend to work as an adult.


With that we are wrapping up part 2 but as we mentioned at the top we would love to go more in depth into specific locations or go through more examples if that is something our readers would find helpful and enriching. 

If you have any requests related to this or any other topic, just drop us a line at and we will be back next week where we will be honing in more closely on the types of goals we can work on with CBI activities.

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