Building Skills, Confidence, and Wellness: Psychosocial Effects of Soft Skills Training for Young Adults with Autism

  • Annemarie Connor
  • Connie SungEmail author
  • Alicia Strain
  • Songtian Zeng
  • Sarah Fabrizi
Original Paper


Recognizing that social functioning and mental health are linked to social participation and employment outcomes, this pilot study examined the preliminary outcomes of an eight-session, work-related social skills training program designed for young adults with high-functioning autism (HFASD). Results indicate statistically significant improvements in social cognition, social function, and social confidence. Furthermore, participants (n = 26) reported statistically significant reductions in anxiety, and a trend toward lessening depressive symptoms. These results suggest that: (1) social skills training is suitable for individuals with HFASD and clinically-significant levels of anxiety and/or depression, and (2) bolstered social functioning may have broader, cyclical impacts on social confidence, psychological wellness, and social and vocational participation in this population.


Autism spectrum disorder Work-related social skills Employment Mental health Young adults Adolescents 



The authors would like to thank all the participants for their commitment and time in taking part in this study. The lead author would like to thank her dissertation supervisor. Dr. Connie Sung, for her mentorship in bringing this work to publication.

Author Contributions

AC and CS conceived of the study, and participated in all aspects of design, implementation, data collection, and analysis. AS and SZ provided additional statistical analyses. SF updated the literature review and assisted with the introduction. AC drafted the manuscript with assistance from all authors to augment, revise, and strengthen the end product. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Annemarie Connor
    • 1
  • Connie Sung
    • 2
    Email author
  • Alicia Strain
    • 2
  • Songtian Zeng
    • 2
  • Sarah Fabrizi
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Rehabilitation SciencesFlorida Gulf Coast UniversityFort MyersUSA
  2. 2.Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology, and Special EducationMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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