The Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and SIMmersion LLC and Morris Bell, a professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine have come together to create a program that gives adults on the autism spectrum repeated practice and feedback on their interviewing skills. This human simulation training program was based on software that was originally used to train FBI agents, but then modified for use by adults with psychiatric disorders.
“Adults with an autism spectrum disorder tend to have difficulties with social communication, which may interfere with them having a successful job interview,” says lead study author and research assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. “Or 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 training program lets users engage in a simulated job interview with a virtual human resources staff member named Molly Porter. The program uses voice recognition software to get responses where they have about 10 to 15 responses built in to simulate an interview conversation. There is also a virtual job coach that gives on the spot feedback to the interviewee’s responses. At the end of the program, they receive a score and if they get a 90 or higher they “get the job.”
This virtual reality program also allows for the person to identify their disability which is taken into account with the questions they get asked. It is also designed to get increasingly more challenging as the person improves their interview skills over time
The trial study was composed of 16 individuals ages 18 to 31 who received the program training and practiced about 15 to 20 virtual reality interviews and 10 individuals in the control who did not. They then had a trained actor to play a human resource employee who facilitated two baseline and two follow up interviews. These interviews were captured on video and viewed by actual human resources expert who did not know which interviewee had received the training program and gave them a score. 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 control group.
The employment rate for people on the autism spectrum is still very low, where in 2009 only 33% of autistic young adults were employed. As autism diagnoses rise we need to address the growing concern of having opportunities available for these young adults, about 50,000 individuals turn 18 each year. If you know someone on the spectrum looking for job opportunities or how to be a better self advocate for themselves, we will be having presentations and workshops to address employment, technology, and the road to opportunity at our upcoming INTERNATIONAL AUTISM CONFERENCE!
Get more information and register HERE!