Amplifying Autistic Voices: Investigating the Impact of a Community-Based Public Speaking Program
The primary goal of this study is to investigate outcomes of participation and feasibility of implementation for the Toastmasters Speechcraft curriculum – a community-based, small-group public speaking program – for autistic young adults. To give a more powerful voice to key stakeholders, our methods include collaborating with autistic and community partners throughout the two phases of this study. In Phase I, we will first conduct interviews (N=40) and collect field notes to obtain a comprehensive understanding of whether, for whom, and under what circumstances Toastmasters is a meaningful community-based program for autistic participants. In Phase II, based on qualitative findings, we will work with our partners to adapt the program and provide a socially valid curriculum for autistic adults. We will then pilot the adapted curriculum with autistic adults (N=24) through a randomized waitlist-controlled trial. We anticipate direct benefits to participation, particularly in social communication and self-efficacy (e.g., increased communication skills, leadership skills, self-confidence, and socialization). From this research, a tangible outcome will be a tailored version of the Toastmasters Speechcraft curriculum for dissemination that aligns with values in the autism community. Given the scarcity of intervention supports for autistic young adults, this study ultimately seeks to improve access to a socially valid community-based program.