First Advisor

Amanda Karsten


Autism, Social Communication, Workplace, Social Skills


Social and Behavioral Sciences




People with Level 1 autism have few work opportunities compared to neurotypical peers due to differences in soft skills. This study evaluates a training package for conversational initiations at work. Participants are young adults with autism who are at least 16 years old. Prior to the study, an employer survey was conducted to examine: (a) the social validity of researchers’ definition of appropriate conditions to initiate conversation and (b) whether written vignettes were ecologically valid with respect to common conversational opportunities in the workplace. During the Zoom-based training phase, which is ongoing, participants respond to vignettes (i.e., scenarios). Scenarios systematically varied according to three contextual decision-making factors (e.g., whether the individual was expecting to interact with the participant at that time). Investigators also assess initiation decisions in simulated work scenarios before and after training. Thus far, data were collected with one male participant with ASD who performed at mastery level on baseline written scenarios but who could not participate in the workplace simulation due to geographical constraints. Recruitment of additional participants is ongoing.