Abstract: Preliminary Outcomes in Transition-Age Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders Engaged in a Newly Adapted Virtual Interview Tool (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

591P Preliminary Outcomes in Transition-Age Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders Engaged in a Newly Adapted Virtual Interview Tool

Saturday, January 18, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Kari Sherwood, MEd, Research Assistant, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Matthew Smith, PhD, MSW, LCSW, Associate Professor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, MI
Leann Dawalt, Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison, WI
Background and Purpose: Transition-age youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder (TAY-ASD) struggle with job attainment, particularly due to social deficits such as social communication. Job interviews are a particularly difficult component of the job seeking process that require complex social communication ability. As TAY-ASD prepare to enter the workforce, they are in need of job interview training. Virtual reality job interview training (VR-JIT) is an internet-delivered simulation that has established efficacy at improving interview skills and increasing access to employment among several adult populations (e.g., autism, schizophrenia) (Smith, et al., 2014; Smith, et al., 2015), but TAY-ASD needs and learning styles are unique from adults populations. Thus, we recently adapted VR-JIT to meet the needs of TAY-ASD that we named “job interview training for transition-age youth” (JIT-TAY) (Smith et al., under review). Here we share the preliminary self-report data from our evaluation of whether the delivery of JIT-TAY improves job interviewing confidence, motivation, and anxiety among trainees compared to services-as-usual (SAU) controls.

Methods: We conducted a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the effectiveness of JIT-TAY compared to transition services as usual. Participants (16 - 25 years old) recruited from two high schools (1 public, 1 charter) were randomized to receive either JIT-TAY (n=17) or SAU (n=8) using a 2:1 randomization scheme. ASD diagnosis was established using individualized education plan (IEP) classification or a non-specific diagnosis on the autism spectrum using the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS). The SRS also provides a level of ASD symptom severity. Job interview role plays and self-report measures of self-confidence, anxiety, and motivation around job interviews were obtained pre- and post-intervention. Teachers provided students with an orientation on how to use JIT-TAY via laptop computer during transition class periods.

Results: The JIT-TAY and SAU groups did not differ with respect to their autism symptom severity, age, gender distribution, and parental educational attainment. Participants randomized to receive JIT-TAY demonstrated a 27.5% decrease in self-reported interviewing anxiety between pre-test and post-test (Cohen’s d = -0.60), compared to a 4.9% decrease in self-reported interviewing anxiety for SAU between pre-test and post-test (Cohen’s d = -0.08). JIT-TAY and SAU students did not differ between pre-test and post-test on self-report measures of interviewing motivation and confidence. In addition, 100% of students reported that JIT-TAY somewhat to very easy to use; helped them prepare to interview; 94% reported JIT-TAY was enjoyable; and 90% reported JIT-TAY fit their learning goals and it was easy to pay attention when learning to use the tool. Lastly, 50% of students took time to say the wrong answer on purpose to learn what would happen.

Conclusions and Implications: The delivery of evidence-based job interviewing training is a major gap in transition services for TAY-ASD. Our preliminary data suggests that JIT-TAY is a highly acceptable tool by TAY-ASD who have reduced anxiety about the interview process. Interviewing anxiety is a known mechanism of interview performance and may help facilitate access to employment. Future research will examine the how JIT-TAY usage translates into community-based employment.