Adults with autism virtually learn how to get the job

May 8, 2014, Northwestern University

Adults with an autism spectrum disorder, who may have trouble talking about themselves and interacting socially, don't always make good impressions in job interviews and have low employment rates.

A new human simulation training program—based on software originally used to train FBI agents—helps adults with autism improve their job interview skills and confidence, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study.

The new interactive program was designed specifically for adults with psychiatric disorders and was also evaluated for use by adults with . This is the first intervention using human-based simulation that gives these adults repeated practice and feedback on their interviewing skills. The program is now available to the public.

"Adults with an autism spectrum disorder tend to have difficulties with social communication, which may interfere with them having a successful job interview," said lead study author Matthew J. Smith, a research assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "Our program helps trainees learn to talk about their ability to work as a team member so they sound easy to work with. They also learn how to sound interested and enthusiastic about a potential job, as well as convey that they are a hard worker."

The study will be published May 8 in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

The employment rate for people with autism is very low. In 2009, only 33 percent of young adults with autism had a job. Approximately 50,000 individuals with autism turn 18 each year.

"We hope that this training program can improve the employment potential for persons with autism spectrum disorder," said senior study author Michael Fleming, M.D., a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Feinberg. "Many people with this disorder would like to work but have trouble getting a job."

The program was a collaborative effort between Northwestern, SIMmersion LLC and Morris Bell, a professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine to develop and test the training program.

The trial included 16 individuals, ages 18 to 31, who received the job interview simulation training and 10 in the control group who did not. Those in the training group each practiced 15 to 20 with the virtual reality training.

Subjects completed two baseline and two follow up interviews with a trained actor playing a human resource employee. The videos of these role-plays were then scored by a human resources expert, who did not know which individuals received the intervention.

For the role-play scores, the training group improved by 11 percent compared to 1 percent for the control group. In self-confidence scores, the training group improved by 22 percent compared to 7 percent for the .

The computer or Internet-based training provides users with the opportunity to repeatedly engage in a simulated job interview with a virtual human resources staff member named Molly Porter. Trainees gain experience by speaking their responses to Molly's questions using voice recognition software.

Each of Molly's questions has 10 to 15 responses that have varying degrees of appropriateness and were created by a panel of vocational rehabilitation experts. The virtual environment also provides a job coach who gives in-the-moment feedback about whether the trainee is responding in a way that helps or hurts rapport with Molly. Trainees receive a score at the end of each interview with scores of 90 or better informing them that, "You've got the job!"

When an individual accesses Molly, the program has certain features so a person can identify a disability. The program will take that into account when it asks questions in the job interview. The program was designed to get increasingly difficult as an individual progresses and masters basic skills.

Explore further: Landscape architect designs toolkit to make cities inclusive of adults with autism

Related Stories

Landscape architect designs toolkit to make cities inclusive of adults with autism

May 1, 2014
Kansas State University landscape architecture student Elizabeth Decker has a goal for her master's research: help professionals create urban environments that are inclusive of her younger brother, Marc.

People with autistic tendencies vulnerable to alcohol problems

May 2, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—Young adults with autistic tendencies don't often engage in social or binge drinking, but if they drink, they are slightly more likely than their peers to develop alcohol problems, according to new research ...

New test facilitates diagnosis of autism in adults

December 11, 2013
Researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have developed a new screening tool to facilitate the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder in adults. The test is presented in the scientific journal Molecular Autism and is ...

Researcher identifies autism employment resources, tips for people with autism spectrum disorders

October 12, 2011
Statistics show that the number of people diagnosed with autism has increased steadily over the past 30 years resulting in a surge in the number of adults with autism graduating from high school. However, preliminary employment ...

Study shows job training results in competitive employment for youth with autism

July 29, 2013
A Virginia Commonwealth University study¹ shows intensive job training benefits youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), one of the most challenging disabilities in the world where only 20 percent find employment. Published ...

Young adults with autism found to have difficulty transitioning into employment

September 5, 2013
A study published in the September 2013 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry found that young adults with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have more difficulty transitioning into ...

Recommended for you

Nearly imperceptible fluctuations in movement correspond to autism diagnoses

January 17, 2018
A new study led by researchers at Indiana University and Rutgers University provides the strongest evidence yet that nearly imperceptible changes in how people move can be used to diagnose neurodevelopmental disorders, including ...

Epigenetics study helps focus search for autism risk factors

January 16, 2018
Scientists have long tried to pin down the causes of autism spectrum disorder. Recent studies have expanded the search for genetic links from identifying genes toward epigenetics, the study of factors that control gene expression ...

Being bilingual may help autistic children

January 16, 2018
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) often have a hard time switching gears from one task to another. But being bilingual may actually make it a bit easier for them to do so, according to a new study which was recently ...

No rise in autism in US in past three years: study

January 2, 2018
After more than a decade of steady increases in the rate of children diagnosed with autism in the United States, the rate has plateaued in the past three years, researchers said Tuesday.

Autism therapy: Brain stimulation restores social behavior in mice

December 13, 2017
Scientists are examining the feasibility of treating autistic children with neuromodulation after a new study showed social impairments can be corrected by brain stimulation.

Social phobia linked to autism and schizophrenia

December 11, 2017
New Swinburne research shows that people who find social situations difficult tend to have similar brain responses to those with schizophrenia or autism.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.