Abstract: Virtual Interview Training for Autistic Transition-Age Youth: A Randomized Controlled Trial (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Virtual Interview Training for Autistic Transition-Age Youth: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Wednesday, January 20, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Matthew Smith, PhD, MSW, LCSW, Associate Professor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, MI
Kari Sherwood, MS, MEd, MSW, PhD Student, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Brittany Ross, Project Manager, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Jd Smith, PhD, Associate Professor, Northwestern University
Leann S. DaWalt, PhD, Senior Scientist, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
Lauren Bishop, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Laura Humm, BA
Jeff Elkins, Chief Script Engineer, SIMmersion LLC, MD
Chris Steacy, General Manager, SIMmersion LLC, MD
Background and Purpose: Autistic transition-age youth struggle with obtaining employment and interviewing is a critical barrier getting a job. Recent studies suggest the job interview is a common experience prior to obtaining employment among autistic transition-age youth, and as such, federally-mandated transition services might benefit by integrating evidence-based job interview training. Recently, a virtual reality job interview training tool was adapted to meet the needs of autistic transition-age youth, called Virtual Interview Training for Transition Age Youth (VIT-TAY). The present study evaluated the feasibility and effectiveness of VIT-TAY at supporting autistic transition-age youth by enhancing job interview skills, job interview self-efficacy, job interview training motivation, and reducing job interview anxiety.

Methods: We conducted a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of VIT-TAY within the context of school-based transition services-as-usual (SAU). Seventy-one autistic transition-age youth (16 to 26 years old) were recruited from five high schools. Participants were randomized at a ratio of 2:1 to receive VIT-TAY and SAU (VIT-TAY+SAU, n=48) or SAU only (n=23). An autism spectrum disorder diagnosis was determined for this study using the Social Responsiveness Scale (2nd Edition) or via educational record. Feasibility outcomes included participant’s self-reported acceptability and adherence to the recommended VIT-TAY delivery curriculum. Effectiveness outcomes included job interview skill as assessed by a mock interview rating scale, and self-reports of job interview self-efficacy, training motivation, and anxiety. Participants also provided their assessment of VIT-TAY acceptability. Local teachers trained and supervised students using VIT-TAY.

Results: Participants randomized to use VIT-TAY reported the tool to be highly acceptable (m=20.36, sd=4.26; range 7 to 25) with high adherence as 72.1% of participants completed at least 13 of the recommended 15 interviews. Overall participants completed m=15.3 (sd=5.4) virtual interviews and m=206.91 (sd=84.60) minutes with the virtual hiring managers. Regarding effectiveness outcomes, we observed two significant group-by-time interactions revealing that VIT-TAY+SAU, as compared to SAU only, had medium-to-large effect size improvements between pre-test and post-test on a global impression rating of job interview skill (p = 0.008; η p2 = 0.10) and on a total score across 11 job interview skill domains (p < 0.001; η p2 = 0.15). We also observed that VIT-TAY+SAU, as compared to SAU only, had greater reduction in job interview anxiety between pre-test and post-test (p=0.058; η p2 = 0.053). No group differences over time were observed for job interview self-efficacy or motivation to train.

Conclusions and Implications: The delivery of evidence-based job interviewing training is a major gap in transition services for autistic transition-age youth. Our feasibility and initial effectiveness trial suggests participants adhered to the training and viewed VIT-TAY as highly acceptable. Moreover, the VIT-TAY trainees experienced enhanced job interview skills and to a lesser degree reduced job interview anxiety. Thus, VIT-TAY has the potential to help fill a major gap in federally-mandated transition services and a larger validation trial is needed. Future research is also needed to examine whether VIT-TAY adherence may translate into a greater likelihood for competitive employment.