“One First Leads to the Next”

Join us October 19–21 for the 11th First Place Global Leadership Institute Symposium to share your next first. “One first leads to the next…” Join us October 19–21 for the 11th First Place Global Leadership Institute Symposium to share your next first, whether it be in housing, community development, healthcare, employment—or something completely new! Build momentum for your supportive community, vision and outcomes—and be inspired by and engage with others from the private, public and charitable sectors.

The keynote speaker is Thomas Insel, MD, former director of the National Institute of Mental Health and author of Healing: Our Path from Mental Illness to Mental Health. His keynote speech is titled “Healthier Outcomes: People, Place and Purpose.” Dr. Insel will also serve on a panel addressing inherent policy challenges for addressing broad, diverse populations and exploring paths forward.

Click here for more information and to register for in-person (filling up fast!) or webinar attendance.

In her latest symposium series blog, Denise Resnik, First Place AZ founder and president/CEO, offers insights about the benefits of harnessing the power of “we”—a concept first shared by those wise, endearing Muppets from Sesame Street.

Fun & Games—and So Much More!—with Law Enforcement Officers

First Place–Phoenix residents and Transition Academy students recently met and worked with officers from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and Goodyear Police Department during an on-site training event. Participants shared information, experiences—and games, too! The three-hour training kicked off with a staff briefing with law enforcement officers, followed by introductions to residents through an icebreaker round of Jeopardy testing participants’ knowledge. Then everyone broke into groups for officer interaction role-playing, where residents witnessed a pat down, experienced firsthand what typically happens at a traffic stop or learned how to approach an officer if they may be lost or need help.

This invaluable opportunity for all underscored how we learn from each other to navigate communities responsibly, interact successfully with law enforcement officers and understand how to communicate effectively with neurodiverse individuals. Thank you, MCSO and Goodyear Police, for being such an important cornerstone of our supportive community!

First Place Rows Toward Progress with OAR Grant

A recent grant award from the Organization for Autism Research will fund an important new initiative on healthy relationships and sexuality. First Place AZ was recently awarded a Community Grant First Place AZ was recently awarded a Community Grant from the Organization for Autism Research (OAR) in partnership with the Autism Intervention Research Network on Physical Health (AIR-P) for our program titled “Beyond Giggle & Google: Conversations About Relationships & Sexuality.” Huge thanks to OAR for their support and trust as we further develop First Place’s 360 Health & Wellness® curriculum.

First Place’s “Year of Adventure” Shows No Sign of Slowing!

First Place–Phoenix residents are out and about in the community! Check out the fun activities that kept them engaged and on the go this month. And a special shout-out to the kind generosity of Judy Ackerman’s devoted family and friends for keeping First Place active, healthy and happy throughout 2023!

  • September’s Adventure Club outing was definitely for thrill-seekers! First Place–Phoenix residents and Transition Academy students headed to Bartlett Lake with staff from Arizona Adaptive Watersports. AAWS has turned popular watersports—wake boarding and surfing, tubing, water skiing and kayaking—into inclusive activities for individuals with disabilities. Everyone had a great time learning what new sports they can add to their activity rosters—and didn’t want to leave at the end of the day.
  • A trip to Castles N’ Coasters in Phoenix included residents and students trying their hand at mini golf! After a few rounds on the exciting and challenging courses full of fountains and world-famous landmarks, they cooled down in the arcade with some thrilling racing games.
  • Adventure Club had residents and students reaching for the sky during the recent AZ on the Rocks outing! Everyone did a great job pushing themselves to new heights—and were all smiles as they rappelled back down to earth.

Who’s Hungry…to Learn to Cook Healthy New Recipes?

Residents and Transition Academy students are sharpening their cooking skills thanks to the efforts of some dedicated First Place friends.

Made possible through ongoing support from the K2 Adventures Foundation, the K2 Kitchen, a new on-site monthly health and wellness program, helps teach participants how to cook a variety of healthy meals. So far, residents have made grilled pizzas, carne asada tacos, gazpacho, pasta primavera and Argentinian empanadas with chimichurri—delicious AND healthy!

September also kicked off #HispanicHeritageMonth—and the chance for residents to learn and enjoy some delish new recipes from some very special guest chefs. First Place–Phoenix residents and Transition Academy students kicked off September’s #HispanicHeritageMonth by cooking authentic green chicken enchiladas with First Place friend and staff members Claudia and Marcela’s mom Adela! Participants learned how to make the entire meal from scratch. Everyone enjoyed learning how to make a new, easy, authentic dish—and enjoyed eating the delicious enchiladas even more!

Take a Virtual Tour with Us

If you’re interested in learning more about the First Place–Phoenix Apartments and/or the two-year, residential First Place Transition Academy program, we’ve scheduled virtual tours throughout the end of the year. Meet the leadership team, take a virtual tour of the First Place–Phoenix community and attend a brief info session/Q&A to learn more about our programs. Register today—and see firsthand why “We’re the place for that.®

“Graying on the Spectrum” Article Offers Timely, Important Info for Families

A growing population of Gen Z autistic youth will soon hit adulthood. What does that look like for families? A growing population of Gen Z autistic youth soon hitting adulthood begs the disconcerting question: What happens when they reach old age? Read this informative and heartfelt article by Craig Outhier for nextavenue.org addressing this topic of increasing concern. You’ll also get some memorable insights from Donna Liebowitz, devoted mom to First Place–Phoenix resident Jenny.

By Denise D. Resnik, Founder & President/CEO, First Place® AZ

While we celebrate personal and communal feats, we are also humbly aware that we don’t always get it right the first time—or the second. But we keep persevering, knowing we have all the motivation in the world to attain the goal of building supportive home and community options and self-perpetuating ecosystems for people everywhere living with autism and other neurodiversities.

Local communities add authenticity to the uniqueness of any program and property, enhancing the daily, purpose-filled lives of its residents. Whether we’re talking about employment, healthcare, lifelong education or housing, these complex concerns exist within equally complex systems to navigate. Of course, the most important ingredient is people—lots of them—who make up those supportive communities. Without them, there is no power of “we,” a concept coined in a Sesame Street special featuring a cast of wise, endearing Muppets imparting lessons for all ages!

Some points along the way require timeouts to stop and assess before moving forward again; others require changes in direction. But we all need people in our corner we can trust and who will tell us not just what we want to hear but also what we need to know.

This very concept is underscored by an on-site training event where First Place–Phoenix residents and Transition Academy students recently met and worked with officers from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and Goodyear Police Department. It was a rare opportunity for all involved to learn from each other how to navigate communities more responsibly, interact successfully with law enforcement officers and understand how to communicate effectively with neurodiverse individuals—the power of “we.”  

As lifelong learners, we can also encourage others to pause, reflect and share so we can all better understand what’s working, what needs to work better and for whom. It’s why we’re advancing plans through First Place’s National Translational Research Consortium underway and poised to qualify and quantify results in select communities across the country.

The overarching goal of this important and timely initiative is to advance research leading to supportive state and federal policy that makes economic sense for local supportive housing and community development—and represent more options for the broad needs and preferences of adults with autism and/or intellectual/developmental disabilities. 

Learn more about the consortium and other promising policies and research during the 11th First Place Global Leadership Institute Symposium, October 19–21, when we’ll connect people, smarts and hearts—and feature exemplary leaders, communities and programs from across the country.

During this pivotal year, when First Place AZ celebrates its 10-year anniversary and SARRC acknowledges its 25th, we’re reminded of those we trusted who championed our cause and rallied others to do the same.

Help us raise the power of “we” to new heights next month. Register here and join us in person (filling up fast!) or via webinar.  

By Denise D. Resnik, Founder & President/CEO, First Place® AZ

If you’ve been airborne or on the ground these past few years, you’ve experienced turbulence. I was reminded of this on a recent flight, and again after reading this CNN story about clear air turbulence.

While not an avid airline passenger, I am married to an aviation enthusiast. We travel various parallel paths through our respective, passionate pursuits. And while I’m forever in awe of the precision and safety in everything he evaluates for flights he pilots and those he doesn’t, I’m no stranger to my own type of turbulence as someone focused on housing and community development for adults with autism and/or intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD).

Here are some suggestions for staying on track with your own flight plan. You might also consider landing in Phoenix, Arizona—or boarding via webinar—for the 11th First Place Global Leadership Institute Symposium Oct. 19-21.

Map your strategy and next steps. Just as you wouldn’t fly without a flight plan to calculate fuel, notify the origin and destination airports, and calculate time to let family or friends know your ETA, you may want to think twice about venturing into a real estate property without a plan informing and guiding your important steps forward. It’s safe to assume that life doesn’t just happen without planning and practice—and lots of it! It also requires memorable life lessons from those who teach and train, including recognizing what works, what doesn’t and what makes for particularly turbulent journeys.

Be aware of peripheral vision. Ever-changing weather conditions may require rerouting and filing new flight plans. As Joan Fallon, founder and CEO of Curemark, reminds us in Goodbye, Status Quo: Reimagining the Landscape of Innovation, peripheral vision is essential for knowing your options—especially when confronted by fierce headwinds!

Understand the terrain and know your options. This is how First Place navigated these pandemic years while maintaining our momentum and optimism. Here’s a quick snapshot:

  • Created a public-funding crosswalk for the residential First Place Transition Academy life skills program
  • Activated the Virginia G. Piper Health Spot at First Place–Phoenix
  • Delivered a second multigeneration affordable housing property in collaboration with the Foundation for Senior Housing
  • Launched the 360 Health & Wellness® initiative
  • Reached record numbers through virtual (and now back to in-person) First Place Global Leadership Institute symposia and workshops
  • Returned to pre-COVID employment and volunteer rates (more than 80%) for First Place–Phoenix residents

Strive for soft landings. We all want them—whether in a commercial or private plane, or on the ground amid daily living. They take preparedness. Have you filed your flight plan? Ensured your load is the safe and proper weight? Buckled your seat belt? Know where you can find clear skies? Make pit stops before arriving at your dream destination? For those of us leading organizations and major initiatives, this also requires staying connected with fellow pioneers, fortifying each other with innovative approaches to solving present day challenges—and making sure we’re well prepared as we navigate our perfectly imperfect communities and ever-changing ecosystems of support.

Add First Place to your flight plan—and join us for next month’s symposium. In-person participation is limited, so register today.