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SkillTalk: Communication Training around Sexual Health Topics for Parents of Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Award Information
Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
Branch: National Institutes of Health
Contract: 2R44HD097906-02A1
Agency Tracking Number: R44HD097906
Amount: $1,393,346.00
Phase: Phase II
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: NICHD
Solicitation Number: PA20-262
Solicitation Year: 2020
Award Year: 2021
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2021-09-01
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2024-03-31
Small Business Information
Scotts Valley, CA 95066-3245
United States
DUNS: 079336099
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 (831) 440-2162
Business Contact
Phone: (831) 440-2104
Research Institution

SkillTalk: Communication Training around Sexual Health Topics for Parents of Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) face a range of impairments in social interaction and
communication settings, including those involved with sexual communication and behavior. Like their
neurotypical peers, adolescents with ASD need comprehensive sexual education to learn and practice healthy
sexual development and relationships, and to prevent negative sexual outcomes such as unwanted pregnancy,
STIs, sexual abuse, and inappropriate sexual behaviors. Unfortunately, many adolescents with ASD are
engaging in sexual activities and behaviors with little or no sexual education until a crisis occurs. Targeted,
evidence-based sexual education resources for youth with ASD are limited and not routinely offered in schools.
While experts recommend that all parents serve as the primary sex educators for their children, parents of
adolescents with ASD face additional, complex challenges. These include uncertainties about how and when
to communicate about sex, fears of inciting inappropriate behavior, and worries about their child’s
psychosexual functioning, such as limited awareness of public and personal boundaries. In addition, parents
are providing less sexual health education, with limited topics, and at a later age than is provided to
neurotypical youth. To address these issues and provide support to parents, this Phase II SBIR project will
complete development of and evaluate a highly focused Microskills video library titled SkillTalk ASD. The
resource will build and support the skills that parents of ASD youth need to offer sexual education to their
children. This mobile friendly site and accompanying mobile apps will provide video modeling of critical parent
Microskills for teaching sexual education to youth with ASD in a way that is engaging, instructionally sound,
and encourages repeat and continued use. When complete, the site will include approximately 350 video clips,
grouped into skill sets that visually demonstrate a Microskill in 30–120 seconds. In addition, the resource
includes companion Making Connections youth videos offering visual modeling of social/sexual communication
scenarios to help facilitate parent discussion, and to offer youth with ASD the ability to watch multiple times for
re-enforcement of appropriate behavioral approaches in these complicated social situations. With ongoing
input and guidance from a team of ASD expert advisors, including parents of and youth with ASD, the project
will 1) develop the content for and produce approximately 350 Microskills within 25 skill sets and 60+ Making
Connection videos; 2) complete development of the SkillTalk ASD platform with forums and search/retrieval; 3)
develop mobile apps for parents and youth to access SkillTalk content privately and facilitate communication;
and 4) conduct a randomized controlled trial with parent/child dyads to assess improvements in parent skills,
knowledge, comfort and confidence and youth knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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