Community Based Instruction #4: …but data?

Community Based Instruction 4: ...but data?

This is part 4 of my Community Based Instruction Series.

For Part 1: Click here

For Part 2: Click here

For Part 3: Click here

Taking data on community based instruction is important. This allows us to determine how students are generalizing their goals from the classroom to the community, and allows you to pinpoint areas that need growth and more explicit instruction.

Your data and goals will vary significantly based on student. Review Part 1 to see some goal ideas. Here are a few pieces of information to consider.

1. You don’t need to track EVERY goal on EVERY trip.

Depending on your trip, it is natural to focus more on some goals than others. For example, if you are going to the zoo and walking around, you may take data on social greetings, appropriate behavior, etc. If you are going to the store to buy items, you may want to be sure to take data for the student’s purchasing goal.

2. Instructional Assistants can take data too

This is literally the only way it is feasible for me to truly track each of my student’s progress on trips. I match my students with IAs (and some with myself). I will communicate this information with my IAs ahead of time, go over the data sheet I would like them to fill out, and take any questions.

TIP: I ALWAYS leave a note area in my data sheets so that the IAs can write more anecdotal notes if they are unsure of how to mark a skill.

On this note, make sure you’re playing to your instructional assistants’ strengths. If they are stronger with specific students or specific skills, take that into consideration.

3. Data can be taken in many different ways

For example, you could:

  • Have a table on a clipboard for data
  • Have masking tape on your sleeve and use a pen to make tallies
  • Use Google Forms on your phone

In a real-world setting like this, what truly matters is that you know what your data means. You can make it look all pretty and make sense to others after the trip, but don’t get hung up on that during your trip! It will become frustrating and unrealistic.

Attach table to student’s shopping list. IAs can quickly write down information and we can meet later to discuss.

Using Google Forms for Community Data

4. Give yourself grace!

THE MOST IMPORTANT take-away is to be patient with yourself. It will take a few tries to find a data collection system that works for you, your staff, your students, and the setting. Reach out to your co-workers, support staff, therapists, if you need help!

Feel free to e-mail me at lovingsouls.superstargoals@gmail.com to talk through your situation as well πŸ™‚


Community Based Instruction #3: Out and About

This is part 3 of my Community Based Instruction Series.

For Part 1: Click here

For Part 2: Click here

For Part 4: Click here

…Now what?

The tasks and skills you work on in community should be directly tied to the work you put into place in the classroom (See Part 2). Of course this will vary depending on age level, your curricular targets, IEP goals and more!

However, below are some ideas to get your gears turning!

For students with visual impairments

** Visual clutter may be quite high in a supermarket or other community environment. I always bring a black fabric or paper along. This allows me to quickly provide an uncluttered and high-contrast background for my students. I can place visuals against it or an actual object from the store.

Black background with image velcro-ed on to reduce visual clutter

** Bring models of the items on your shopping list. We often buy coffee and tea for our coffee cart program. I will save the coffee wrapper and a little bit of coffee in a ziplock, as well as a tea bag. I bring these on our trips to the grocery store and it provides students with a multi-sensory and concrete “shopping list”! Also, you can target the concepts “same” and “different” by comparing what you bought last time to what you are buying this trip!

For student with Cortical Visual Impairment. High contrast image with red glitter tape to promote visual fixation and concrete object of peanut butter to touch/see/smell

For functional reading, writing, math

When you go shopping for yourself, chances are you had a role in writing the list. You probably know what you will use the items for, why you are buying them, and a general idea of cost. In this same fashion, your students should have this opportunity as well. I usually have my shopping lists double as a space to jot down the cost of items, but you can work it however you want! See below for some ideas.

*Tip: Some grocery stores allow you to search for their items online! It isn’t always consistent with prices in the stores but it gives you/your students a general idea of costs.

For some functional FUN

So… in my opinion, all the above is super FUN πŸ˜‰ but some students might need a little extra ‘oomph.’

We use these scavenger hunt sheets to work on various skills with students. They work for a chosen reinforcer.

My favorite part of these is that I can change the targeted skills based on student, trip, social skill or core word focus, etc!

For structured needs

Just because you’re outside of the classroom, doesn’t mean all structure should go away. In fact, it is often the opposite, you’ll need to put even more supports in place to promote success.

**Be sure that the incentives you have in place are able to be used in the community. For example, if your student gets 5 tokens to play on the computer and their schedule of reinforcement is every few minutes – you probably don’t want to bring a computer on your trip!! Give other reinforcers as options to work for.

**Provide a mini schedule. You know your students best, so be sure to individualize as needed. One student may be successful with a schedule that shows “bus, shop, eat, bus” and one may need the tasks more broken down “bus, find item, buy item, eat, clean up, bus” .

View this post on Instagram

Headed with our grade level peers for a day of FUN!!!!!

A post shared by Britelle Smith (@lovingsouls.superstargoals) on

Don’t worry!

Please note that you don’t always need to buy items! Students can have a super successful, fun, and challenging trip without buying anything! On one of our trips (photo below), students walked around the store and found/sorted items into food groups.

Community, Multiple Disabilities

Community Based Instruction #2: Planning, Prepping, Almost Going!

Welcome back!

This is Part 2 of my series on Community Based Instruction. 

For Part 3 click here

For Part 4: Click here

In Part 1 we discussed how to:

A. Define community based instruction

B. Identify evidence-based guidelines for community based instruction

C. Describe goals your students’ families have for their child

…and you should have determined some appropriate goals for each student.I

In The Classroom:

You should be targeting your goals in the classroom, and then generalizing to the community.

  • Work on each student’s functional goals in small group or 1:1 instruction


  • Goals on generalizing core words or safety signs in the community?
View this post on Instagram

Finally added! Core worksheets come with each core book!

A post shared by Britelle Smith (@lovingsouls.superstargoals) on

  • Functional reading?
  • Finding/choosing/categorizing foods?
  • Or maybe you have some functional jobs at school?

Start Planning the CBI:

What activities will you be doing in the community?

What will you be buying?

Who will be in charge of buying which items?

What does your shopping list look like? Pictures? Words? Tactile?

How are you pairing up your aides, nurses, therapists and students?

Try to tie in your jobs and programs at school. For example, we have a coffee cart program and a dog treat program, so the students will buy supplies when we go on our trips. This way they are seeing the whole process from beginning to end!

Next: Part 3 – GOING: Out & About here

Community, Freebies, Multiple Disabilities

Community Based Instruction #1: Getting Started

This is Part 1 of a series on one of my favorite learning areas: CBI!

*For full series click here*

For Part 2 click here

For Part 3 click here

For Part 4: Click here

Community Based Instruction (CBI) has become a HUGE passion of mine over the last few years. I have seen significant growth in my students since starting to take these trips….and I want you to be able to do the same!

What is it?

Community Based Instruction “is defined as regular and systematic instruction in meaningful, functional, age-appropriate skills in integrated community settings, using naturally occurring materials and situations, designed to help the student to acquire and generalize life-skills that enhance his or her opportunities for meaningful experiences”

So basically – it is a chance for you to teach your students important and relevant skills in the setting in which these skills will be required! It also enables students to generalize skills in the most authentic way possible, and it enables use to assess how students are generalizing/acquiring skills, what we need to focus on more, what we need to challenge the students with more, etc.

We all know that student who counts nickels perfectly at the math table in class but not at the grocery store. Or the student who doesn’t yet understand that you have to PAY for food before you can open and eat it. Or, or, or, or….we could write a million stories of students who would benefit from systematic community experiences.


Step 1: Learn Best Practice for CBI

I recently read a book about how to set up your students for ultimate success in adulthood, and it detailed 4 guidelines for Community Based Instruction.

Keep these in mind as you plan and advocate for trips to admin. There is a difference between fun field trips and systematic community based instruction (though both are important and both incorporate critical life skills!).


Step 2: Incorporate Parent Input

Community Based Instruction is designed to help the student acquire and generalize life-skills that will be meaningful for them. It should occur as regular and systematic instruction within their community and the stores they frequent.

THIS MEANS— We need parent input! We don’t always know what long-term goals parents have for their child, and we most likely don’t know what stores they go to most often, or what items they help their parents buy

…and guess what? Having parents on board with your trips increases the chance that parents will assist in teaching these skills when they go out, too!

I send out this survey to parents when I start planning my trips. GRAB IT FOR FREE BY CLICKING HERE!


Step 3: Determine Goals

Now that you can:

A. Define community based instruction

B. Identify evidence-based guidelines for community based instruction

C. Describe goals your students’ families have for their child

You are ready to determine what main goals you want to track for your students in the community. More blog posts coming about how to teach, assess, and debrief with these goals–but first, let’s pick them!


Communication (greeting, requesting), functional math (paying, determining cost, number sense reading a list), functional reading (determining corresponding aisles, identifying items on list), increasing tolerance of various environments, attending to items in complex environments, safety skills, safety signs, physically reaching for items, and so much more!!!

—> Message me or comment to tell me some of your goals!



Multiple Disabilities, My Story

Being a teacher of students with multiple disabilities means . . .

Hello fellow special educator!

The world of severe-profound, multi-needs teachers seems very small. You know who you are – you not only deal with behaviors, but also seizures, full-assistance bathrooming, g-tubes, TLSOs, standers and more. And you have a difficult, and INCREDIBLY rewarding job.

Proud Multi-Needs Teacher

My story to finding and landing my job in this niche of teaching is a story of many well lined-up stars (and some awesome teacher mentors!). BUT, one thing I have found is that there aren’t tons like us.

I am wanting to take this blog more seriously, and I figured what better way to start off the year than to explain why I do what I do (and what that even is exactly!)

Being a teacher of students with multiple disabilities means:

1. You will find yourself taking data on…well, everything!

We know as teachers we take a ton of academic data. And we are prepped and ready to take data on behavior. However, you will likely also find yourself taking data on seizures, toileting patterns (y’all – do it! you won’t regret it, and many parents find it beneficial to see this too!), and other needs as directed by your Physical Therapist, Occupational Therapist, and Speech Paths.

If you’re struggling to find a format that works for you, check out these seizure recording sheets and toileting data sheets for free!

2. You will become a pro at making appropriate materials

One thing you will quickly realize is that in order to make things appropriate and relatable for your students, you are going to have to switch it up a bit. If your student does not use a fork/knife to eat their lunch, then don’t use a fork/knife for their object schedule! Your students deserve materials that truly represent them (not to mention, they’ll learn better than way too!)

Many objects for these can be found at Walgreens or local pharmacies (for example, the syringes used for medicine), but pro tip: make friends with your parents and nurses, explain what you are looking for, and they will probably go above and beyond for you and their students, too!

3. You will become more and more familiar with visual impairments.

Being a teacher in this population often means being a little wanna-be OT/PT/TVI/SLP haha!

I didn’t learn much about visual impairments in my teacher training, but my awesome TVI (Teacher for the Visually Impaired) has been an amazing resource. I have been learning more and more about Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI), and this has been really beneficial to my teaching. These strategies have not only impacted how I approach students with CVI but also how I approach other students with similar needs!

I was also lucky enough to attend a training by the one and only Christine Roman-Lantzy (a.k.a. CVI guru!)

Most posts coming soon, but check out some materials for students with CVI by clicking here.

4. You will become conscious and attentive to modes of communication you might never have even known existed!

Guys. This is my favorite part. THIS IS IT. I would scream this from the rooftops if I could. THIS IS WHAT WE DO. I still remember talking about this at an interview and feeling overcome with goosebumps. .. and if you follow me on Instagram, you probably already get the hint πŸ™‚ {Check some out some of my embedded posts below}

We are tasked with helping students FIND THEIR VOICE. We are entrusted to help shape their communication. Seriously – what is more important than this!??!?! You will learn that sometimes communication comes from the most nuanced of modes: the flicker of a finger, a blink, a click of the tongue. You will become so aware of every movement, and you will learn to shape it with the student and the team.

5. You will learn to be gentle on yourself, your students, and your lesson plans.

This is the hardest part for me, and to be honest, I am still struggling with it. I am so Type A and I write these detailed lesson plans, aligned to standards, IEP goals, curriculum, and get frustrated with myself when I don’t get to them.

There are days where most (or all) of my students are sick or unable to access learning due to various medical needs. I had a great conversation with my Physical Therapist the other day and was reminded, “You need to take care of the Maslow before you can focus the on the Bloom ” AND THAT IS OKAY. In fact, that is more than okay, that is THE DEFINITION OF YOUR JOB. If a child’s basic needs aren’t met (Maslow), we must meet those first. Then, we can jump back into the educational learning objectives, standards, etc (Blooms). Give yourself grace. Give your lesson plans flexibility. Give your students love.

BONUS: You will find yourself becoming an advocate (and maybe a mini-accessibilty police)

I just started watching Speechless on ABC and I cried laughing when I met Maya DiMeo (shown below). Especially when we go on trips in the community, I definitely find myself channeling my inner Maya πŸ™‚

ABA, Behavior, Freebies

Planned Ignoring – Staff Freebie

[freebie download at bottom of page!]

We’ve all been there. The student with a behavior we all need to place on planned ignoring… and the kind-hearted and well-meaning staff who intervene with “Just stand up!” or “What’s going on there?”.

Remember: Each behavior serves at least one of these functions: Sensory, Escape, Tangible, Attention-Seeking. And for attention-seeking behaviors, negative attention can be just as reinforcing, if not more, than positive attention

So what do I do?

For many attention-seeking behaviors, a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) may ask staff to ignore the behavior. That means nada, nothing, you gotta go into “robot mode.”

But imagine this:Β 

My student, “Johnny” is engaging in an attention-seeking behavior.

I am at a table, student safely within my line of sight, ignoring the Johnny’s behavior.

Then, one of my IAs comes back from lunch and goes “Hey Johnny! What’s up?” Β  *Gives high five*

…and I start to pull my hair out……just kidding.

Now, check this out!

****In my classroom, because we have so many wonderful staff, nurses, therapists, popping in and out throughout the day, we will flash this “Ignoring” visual to each other. We are all on the same page now that this means the student is engaging in a behavior and we are not to engage. Since we started using this, thus leading the entire team to follow the BIP with fidelity, the behavior decreased. YAY!!!!!

ignoring .jpg

Download this visual here. Show it to your team, and pop it in your pocket or on your lanyard for those handy moments πŸ™‚


End of Year Bus Gifts


school bus

It’s almost time for summer, and that means—-end of year gifts!

We have so many bus drivers and bus aides who have treated our students like family, and they deserve to be appreciated! But at the same time, with all the wonderful providers in and out of our students’ lives, we could quickly break the bank with gifts.

Download these adorable Hershey’s Chocolate Bar wrappers HERE FOR FREE.

Snag a 6 pack of Hershey’s Chocolate Bars for $4.00 and you’re set. Less than $1.00 a person!


*Also, can I tell you, I am loving the “wheelie” great year — because most of my bus riders are in wheelchairs and it’s just so darn cute!