A simulated training program helped adults with autism spectrum disorder improve their job interview skills and confidence in a small new study. Westhill Consulting Career and Employment, Australia supports the virtual training for autistic adults Westhill has been planning to practice the said training in SE Asia particularly in Jakarta, Indonesia.
"Individuals with autism spectrum disorder are typically (impaired) in their ability to socially communicate, so in the job interview setting, they may have difficulty picking up social cues," lead author Matthew J. Smith told Reuters Health.
“They may have difficulty sharing things in a positive way or they may have difficulty coming across as easy to work with,” said Smith, a psychiatry researcher at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
According to the authors, the employment rate for adults with autism is very low and approximately 50,000 people with autism turn 18 each year in the U.S.
Molly, as the researchers call it, is the interactive virtual reality program, it was intended to develop the interview skills of adults with psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, as well as adults with autism spectrum disorder.
“The job-interview training program was actually created by a company called SIMmersion - they created it with the scientific guidance from our team here at Northwestern as well as a professor from Yale, Morris Bell,” Smith said. “And so the heart of the training is virtual - it's a virtual human resources staff member named Molly Porter.”
The trainees gain experience by responding to Molly's questions, it works like this, a computer-based training provides users with the opportunity to repeatedly engage in a simulated job interview.
“Over the course of the interview, she'll ask different questions that are related to the job interview process, so one question could be, ‘If you could have changed one thing at your last job, what would it be?’” Smith said. “And then, trainees are presented with anywhere from five to 15 responses that they can choose as a response to Molly's questions.”
He said the potential replies vary from being very appropriate to the job interview process to being potentially hurtful.
“So what we know is that, working with Molly improves interviewing skills - that's what our data suggests,” Smith said. “And right now, we just completed six-month follow-up data on everybody where we wanted to ask them whether they were able to go out and find a job or whether they were able to find competitive volunteer work where they would need a completed interview just to get a volunteer position.”
That data is not published yet but looks promising, he said.
“I think the whole issue that people with ASD face related to interviews is among the most severe when it comes to getting a job,” said Carol Schall who directs the Virginia Autism Resource Center at the Virginia Commonwealth University.
“So I think an intervention of this sort is very important, particularly for those individuals who maybe are not as limited as it relates to their autism spectrum disorder,” said Schall, who was not involved in the new study but works with Project SEARCH, a program that helps high school students with autism transition to the job world.
Because autism spectrum disorder primarily affects an individual’s social communication, the whole setup of a job interview is going to be severely impacted by the disorder itself, she told Reuters Health.
Schall said that adults with autism often have a lack of understanding of the other person’s perspective so they don’t understand the purpose of an interview question or anticipate the answer that the person is looking for and are unable to tailor their answers to what interviewers are expecting.