The unemployment rate is quite high among adults with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Inadequate transition planning during high school and gaps between vocational needs and availability of evidence-based services help explain the struggles of transition-age youth at obtaining employment. There is a paucity of research on developing and evaluating services to support the transition to the work force after graduating from high school. The lack of available resources to support transition-age youth with an ASD speaks to the need to develop interventions that ameliorate obstacles to employment and help support the transition to the work force. Due to the social deficits characterizing ASD innovative interventions could target preparing job interview skills for students facing the transition to employment as the job interview is a critical gateway to securing a job offer. Thus, the overarching goal of this study is to modify an existing virtual reality job interview skills training program for use in high school students with ASD and to test the feasibility and effectiveness of conducting this intervention in a high school setting via a small controlled trial. Thus, our first aim is to modify the existing `Virtual Reality Job Interview Training' program to meet the specific needs of high school seniors with ASD. We will accomplish this by conducting in depth interviews with high school students with ASD and their vocational counselors to solicit feedback to modify the current training's learning goals, content, usability, and simulated interview scripts to meet the specific needs of transition age youth. An expert panel will determine the final modifications to the training program based on the results of the qualitative data analysis and their own views of the program.
Our second aim i s to conduct a pilot trial to evaluate the feasibility, acceptability, portability, fidelity and preliminary effectiveness of the modified intervention in a randomized controlled trial. We will also explore potential mechanisms for effectiveness and collect pilot implementation data.
This project has high relevance for public health and service by developing and testing the feasibility and efficacy of a virtual reality job interview training program modified for youth with autism spectrum disorders transitioning from high school to adult-based activities such as employment. This project will be the first in a series of studies to develop an evidence-based treatment approach to increasing employment among individuals with an autism spectrum disorder.