Author ORCID Identifier

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Special Education

First Advisor

Dr. Colleen Thoma

Second Advisor

Dr. Yaoying Xu

Third Advisor

Dr. Carol Schall

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Sarah Jane Brubaker


Young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) experience high rates of unemployment in the years immediately following high school (Hendricks & Wehman, 2009; Roux et al., 2015), yet very few studies to date have investigated approaches to teaching transition-aged high school students work-related social skills within competitive, integrated workplace settings. Furthermore, difficulties in developing relationships with coworkers within the workplace may negatively affect employment (Baldwin et al., 2014; Sperry & Mesibov, 2005). Research is needed that examines methods for improving interactions with coworkers.

This study investigated the effects of a behavioral skills training (BST) with in situ training intervention package on workplace conversational skills of four transition-aged high school students with ASD who were enrolled in a community-based internship program at a mid-sized military installation. Intervention sessions began with BST, which included direct instruction, video modeling, conversational practice, and feedback on practice performance. Intervention sessions concluded with in situ training, during which participants conversed with coworkers in their internship settings. Data were collected on participants’ accuracy in demonstrating the steps to conversing with coworkers during BST probes in training settings and in using the same steps in authentic conversations with coworkers during in situ trials in internship settings.

Findings indicated a functional relation existed between the implementation of the intervention package and increases in skill accuracy on in situ trials for all four participants. Substantive improvements in participants’ BST probe scores within training settings were also noted. During the maintenance session conducted two weeks post-intervention, all four participants maintained skill mastery on BST probes, and three out of four participants maintained skill mastery on in situ trials. Participants, their special educator, and their job coach rated the intervention package as effective and acceptable. The findings highlight the importance of in situ training in increasing workplace conversational skills in authentic settings in order to minimize difficulties with skill generalization. Results also indicate the importance of considering individualized learner needs and workplace environmental contexts in developing interventions.


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