Virtual reality job interview training may improve interview skills of students on the autism spectrum

The authors are Helen M. GenovaPhD, Katie LancasterPhD, Mikayla Haas, Michael DiBenedettoDenise Krch, PhD, and John DeLucaPhD, of Kessler Foundation, James Morecraft and Alexandra Edwardsformerly of Kessler Foundation, and Matthew J. SmithPhD, of the University of Michigan School of Social Work.

Interviewing skills, which are essential to successful jobhunting, are challenging for adolescents on the autism spectrum, who often have difficulty with social interactions. Researchers focused on improving these skills in this randomized, controlled trial conducted in a high school setting.

The 14 participants were divided into either an experimental group or a control group. The experimental group received 10 hours of Virtual Reality Job Interview Training (VR-JIT), which included interviewing with a virtual human and receiving feedback. The control group continued to receive their normal services as usual. To track performance, all participants were video recorded while performing mock job interviews at baseline and follow up. Students filled out pre- and post-intervention questionnaires related to job interviewing anxiety and self-efficacy.

The study showed that certain job interview skills improved in the group that received the job interview training, while the control group’s performance did not change over time. Students were positive about their experiences with the VR-JIT, reporting that the VR-JIT program was easy to use and enjoyable.

The results provide preliminary evidence for the effectiveness of this tool for interviewing skills in students on the autism spectrum. “By setting this training, pilot as study in the school we showed that it is possible to incorporate this training in the educational curriculum for aut students,” said Dr. Genova, associate director of the Center for Autism Research at Kessler Foundation, and faculty fellow with the Level Up: Employment Skills Simulation Lab at the University of Michigan School of Social Work, which is directed by Dr. Matthew Smith.

“This pilot study may prove to be a promising initial step toward job readiness for transition-age youth on the autism spectrum. To increase their employment prospects, we need to continue to explore new and effective ways to prepare these students for the workplace.”

Funding: Children’s Specialized Hospital of New JerseyThe New Jersey Governor’s Council for Medical Research and Treatment of Autism (CAUT19APL027), Reitman Foundation. Dr. Genova is the recipient of a training grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to increase her research experience in autism (1K18MH122847-01A1)

Interested in our autism research? Learn more about participating in our studies by contacting [email protected].

To interview an expert, contact Carolann Murphy, PA, [email protected]

About Kessler Foundation
The Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility, and long-term outcomes — including employment — for people with neurological disabilities. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. For more information, visit KesslerFoundation.org.

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