Using community-engaged methods to adapt virtual reality job-interview training for transition-age youth on the autism spectrum

Matthew J. Smith*, Rogério M. Pinto, Leann Dawalt, J. D. Smith, Kari Sherwood, Rashun Miles, Julie Taylor, Kara Hume, Tamara Dawkins, Mary Baker-Ericzén, Thomas Frazier, Laura Humm, Chris Steacy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Virtual Reality Job-Interview Training (VR-JIT) is an efficacious Internet-based intervention for adults with severe mental illness (SMI). Evaluations of VR-JIT have shown improved interview skill and access to employment in several cohorts of adults with SMI and with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). VR-JIT trains participants how to fill out job applications and handle job interviews through e-learning content and applied practice. Trainees receive feedback through in-the-moment nonverbal cues, critiques, and recommendations for improving performance. Our study sought to adapt VR-JIT for transition-age youth with ASD (TAY-ASD). Methods: We recruited TAY-ASD and adult stakeholders from public and charter schools, transition programs, and community service providers. Participants provided feedback on VR-JIT to enhance its applicability to TAY-ASD. We used community-engaged methods to process and analyze data from TAY-ASD and stakeholders, presented their quantitative and qualitative responses to community and scientific advisory boards for review and recommendations, and adapted the intervention design and content. Results: Our adaptations included adding diversity (gender; race/ethnicity) to the virtual hiring manager; shortening the interview by reducing response options; increasing social storytelling to enhance engagement with VR-JIT core components; adding employment opportunities more relevant to younger workers; reducing the reading level; and making the e-learning content more accessible by adding bullet points, voiceover, and imagery/video; and adding new learning goals. Conclusions: This study presents a rigorous and innovative community-engaged methodology for adapting VR-JIT to meet the needs of TAY-ASD. We review our engagement with TAY-ASD and stakeholders, and discuss the standardized coding scheme we used to adapt VR-JIT and the usefulness and limitations of employing this methodology in adapting other behavioral interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101498
JournalResearch in Autism Spectrum Disorders
StatePublished - Mar 2020



  • Adaptation
  • Autism
  • Implementation science
  • Job interviewing
  • Transition-age youth
  • Virtual reality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

Cite this

Smith, M. J., Pinto, R. M., Dawalt, L., Smith, J. D., Sherwood, K., Miles, R., Taylor, J., Hume, K., Dawkins, T., Baker-Ericzén, M., Frazier, T., Humm, L., & Steacy, C. (2020). Using community-engaged methods to adapt virtual reality job-interview training for transition-age youth on the autism spectrum. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 71, [101498].