High rates of unemployment are observed in transition-age youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder (TAY-ASD). Moreover, TAY-ASD within 2 years of high school graduation are at the greatest risk of unemployment. Given that 1 in 59 youths have autism, the exclusion of this growing subpopulation from the workforce is expected to have a profound negative impact upon the economy as these individuals age. Thus, to help enhance access to employment for TAY-ASD, the current study will evaluate the acceptability and effectiveness of a strength- based intervention (Kessler Foundation Strength Identification and Expression; KF-STRIDE) that can enhance job interview skills and employment. Despite possessing employable talents, the core social deficits of TAY- ASD make it difficult for this group to articulate their individual strengths. This inability to identify and express one?s strengths to a potential employer can negatively affect interview performance and lead to difficulty with job obtainment. Thus, the current proposal will examine the effectiveness (Aim 1), acceptability, usability, and feasibility (Aim 2) of a novel strength-based intervention, KF-STRIDE, which is designed to enhance the ability of TAY-ASD to identify personal strengths and effectively discuss them. The goals of the current study are to evaluate the preliminary effectiveness and feasibility of KF-STRIDE in an 8-week randomized controlled trial comparing the intervention to services as usual (SAU). The study will be performed at two private therapeutic schools. Compared to a SAU group, we hypothesize that the KF-STRIDE group will: a) improve the ability to identify strengths (Hypothesis 1), b) improve the ability to express strengths (Hypothesis 2), c) improve other job interview skills (Hypothesis 3) and finally c) improve ability to obtain employment 6-months following the intervention (Hypothesis 4). In this way, the current study is in line with the NIMH?s experimental therapeutics model, as we will examine whether the intervention improves employment, as well as identify potential mechanistic targets that could affect outcome.
In Aim 2, we will also monitor fidelity, acceptability, usability, and feasibility of the strength-based intervention. The long-term goal of the current research is to collect pilot data that will lead to fully-powered effectiveness and implementation evaluations of KF-STRIDE in other community settings.
High rates of unemployment are observed in transition-age youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder (TAY-ASD). Despite possessing employable talents and skills, the core social deficits of TAY-ASD make it difficult for this group to articulate their individual strengths. Thus, the current proposal will examine the effectiveness, acceptability, usability, and feasibility of a novel strength-based intervention, which is designed to enhance the ability of TAY-ASD to identify and express personal strengths during a job interview to ultimately improve employment.