competent learner model

This is the third and final post in a three part series looking at how the Competent Learner Model is disseminated daily in accordance with the principles laid out in ABAI’s 1990 Bill of Students’ Rights. These are the CLM’s commitments to learners.

5. Instructional decisions based on sound assessment practices rather than a given “label.”

Each learner must be assessed using the Competent Learner Repertoires Assessment (CLRA) or a similar assessment tool to set clearly delineated treatment plan goals that should be reviewed. The team should not make decisions about the learners’ capacity to acquire repertoires based on diagnostic labels. Teams are encouraged to not place a ceiling on the learners’ ability to learn and to take responsibility for teaching the learner the repertoires needed to be successful in life.

The CLM assessment tool known as the CLRA, assesses every one of the seven CLM repertoires across people, places and items. We believe that skills should be demonstrated not only in one place, with one person doing one thing. The CLM believes that every individual is unique and has their strengths and weaknesses and this is not determined by a label, or specific diagnosis. That’s why assessment is one of the first tasks of a CLM team in developing a CLM program.

    What this looks like:

  • The 7 CLM repertoires which are a set of skills are the basis of the CLRA. Learners’ performance as a Participator, Listener, Talker, Reader, Writer, Observer and Problem Solver are assessed across people, places and items (activities or engaging with things in a socially acceptable way). The CLM repertoires are skills which anyone of any age and abilities need to learn to perform as independently as possible in society.
  • The CLM helps anyone learn, no matter what their medical diagnosis is. This is because the CLM assessment that is focused on the 7 CLM repertoires are skills for everyone! The medical diagnosis is necessary for learners to qualify for ABA services through insurance companies, but does not influence the individualized CLM program for any learner.

6. Instruction provided to correct deficits.

Learner’s errors must be corrected in a supportive manner as soon as they occur. If the learner cannot tolerate feedback then rearrange the parts of the instructional conditions so that errors are less likely to occur. For example, the instructor should make sure that the learner does not practice incorrect responses.

Supportive and fun instruction includes coping strategies for incorrect responses. It is natural to make mistakes, it’s how we correct those errors that is important. In the first 7 lessons of the CLM curriculum, information is provided that teaches the instructor what to do right away if a learner makes a mistake. The implementation of well designed contingencies are vital to effective programing. The CLM’s contingency worksheets or online version in the CLMMIS (CLM-Management Information System), helps the instructional team design contingencies that are specific to each learner.

    What this looks like:

  • If the learner makes errors in the latter part of the task, the task may be shortened in order for the learner to end on a successful note. The length of a task would be gradually lengthened.
  • Lessons throughout the CLM curriculum naturally help by developing coping skills using supportive sentences like, “That’s okay, let’s try again” or “Nice try, let’s try it this way”.

7. Instructors motivate learners to participate in instructional conditions.

Frequent updating of a reinforcer survey or preference assessment to isolate potential reinforcers. The Behavior Technician arranges and re-arranges supplementary contingencies to induce participation in instructional conditions. The team also isolates potential aversive stimuli and avoids arranging such contingencies until the Behavior Technician can alter the negative value of such stimuli. The Behavior Technician only provides potentially reinforcing contingencies.

Team members continually assess the learners’ responses to new stimuli (objects, actions or people) that may be used as part of the instruction. Instructors should use highly preferred items when beginning instruction. The highly preferred items and actions are paired with new instructors to help the instructor to build value with the learner. It is equally important to assess and communicate to team members any potentially aversive activities that their presence may stop the learner to engage with the instructor and learning.

    What this looks like:

  • Family members and teachers who are very familiar with the learner are interviewed to provide feedback for completing a reinforcer survey. The goal is to provide as many potentially highly reinforcing to the learner actions and items as part of instruction and reinforcing participation.
  • A new instructor slowly begins to engage with the learner while a familiar instructor (parent, teacher, etc.) engages with the learner. The new instructor does not immediately put instructional demands and stays in close proximity to the learner. Slowly the new instructor has fun and the learner doesn’t mind the new instructor being close to them. The new instructor is pairing with the familiar instructor and the preferred task.


Along with the commitment to learners, the CLM has commitments to families and educators/team members. These will be topics for future blog posts. Stay tuned!

Rae-Ann Arevelo

Rae-Ann Arevelo, Certified CLM Coach


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