The social setting of our world is ever-changing and developing, for autistic individuals it can be hard to understand and keep up with the skills to navigate it! Dr. Ali Arena is an SLP, BCBA who specializes in social skills. While Dr. Arena works primarily with autistic adults, she shares some great tips that can be applied across the lifespan.
As a provider, working on Social Skills requires a strong and trusting relationship with your client. Dr. Arena shares about how she has learned about her clients interests and hobbies and allowed them to be the expert in the conversation. She also reminds therapists to create connections and rapport before diving into their interests because these connections become genuine. Another tool Dr. Arena uses in her therapy are dyads, she finds peer group practice between neurodivergent individuals can be really impactful in understanding social cues and norms.
Masking is something autistic individuals in the community are really speaking out against. Dr. Arena agrees that being true to yourself and not changing are important. I reference what a previous guest had called camouflaging, as a tool to follow societal rules. Sometimes as an adult, you just need to know how to talk to your boss or your professor in college. Following social rules can be necessary for autistic adults and that’s where Dr. Arena comes in. Her clients come to her to repair social communication, either for work, relationships, or other problems they might be having. It’s not masking but rather building, learning, and refining new skills.
From focusing on REALISTIC social situations for all ages to helping autistic adults with romantic relationships, Dr. Arena has some great tips for therapists, parents, and any professional working with autistic individuals on social skills. You can find out more about her at her website or on Instagram.
Dr. Ali Arena has dedicated her education and career to finding the best communication patterns and behavior changes required to navigate the ever-changing social world. She is both a Speech-Language Pathologist and Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She has an Autism, Trauma-Informed Care, Level 1A Social Thinking Practitioner, UCLA PEERs, and Neurodiverse Couples Counseling certifications. Additionally, she provides supervision to SLPS, SLPAS, RBTS, & BCBAS.
Her Doctorate focus was unique to say the least as it addressed the dating intricacies of those on the Autism Spectrum which lead her to develop unique 1:1 couples counseling for neurodiverse partnerships and social skills classes for individuals with social learning differences (including Asperger’s syndrome, high functioning autism, ADD/ADHD, and those without a formal diagnosis but who struggle in the social world).
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