Gaming Workshops 2021-2023


Promoting Engagement in Informal STEM Learning as a Path to Employment for Adolescents with ASD



Rather than becoming the visionaries and transformers of society that they could become, many people with autism are unemployed and isolated. Lack of support for different ways of being blocks individuals with autism from finding jobs that match their potential. Our research seeks to empower adolescents with autism to seek out careers that are well-matched with their strengths and interests. Many people with autism are interested in computing, a marketable skill. Our research builds from this interest by developing teaching strategies to effectively engage teenagers with autism. Although people with autism share a diagnosis, each person with autism is unique. We will invite teenagers with autism to participate in a game design workshop hosted by Tech Kids Unlimited (TKU). Teenagers often enjoy learning how to design games and can learn many useful skills through design. By developing clear guidelines to help educators match their teaching styles to how different students learn, we can help teachers engage their students more effectively. We expect that teaching strategies that are engaging for young people with autism will help them develop the belief in their skills needed to seek out fulfilling careers.

This collaborative Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) Research in Service to Practice proposal aims to develop strategies that effectively engage adolescents with ASD in informal STEM learning opportunities that promote the self-efficacy and interest in STEM careers that will empower them to seek out career opportunities in STEM fields. Our research aims are to:

1) Identify evidence-based strategies to engage youth with ASD in informal STEM learning opportunities that are well-matched to their attentional profiles.

2) Determine if engaging youth with ASD in informal STEM learning opportunities increases their STEM self-efficacy.

3) Determine if engagement with STEM internship activities is associated with increased interest in STEM careers and career decision-making self-efficacy.

This research will use principles of Universal Design (UD) and Mayer’s principles of effective multimedia instruction as frameworks to identify instructional strategies that are emotionally engaging for youth with diverse attentional profiles. We will examine the degree to which attentional differences contribute to different patterns of emotional engagement with informal STEM learning.