First Place Production of Frozen Jr. Warms Hearts

First Place actors and supportive staff, ASU directing and production cast, family and friends in the audience—everyone take another bow! Frozen Jr., First Place’s second annual play, was a smashing success on Saturday, March 18 on the stage of Phoenix Center for the Arts. Months of preparations and rehearsals paid off as the actors embraced their roles and delivered their lines with enthusiasm and unfettered joy. The audience couldn’t have been prouder!

First Place friends from ASU’s theater program Jacob Buttry (director), Zoe Tyler (assistant director) and Ryan Ulrich (choreographer) returned this year to lead the way with professionalism, dedication and kindness in guiding the cast to their big night. And HUGE thanks to supportive community partner Arizona Commission on the Arts for the Lifelong Arts Engagement Grant that made another invaluable life-skills experience possible for First Place participants. Stay tuned for info on next year’s project!

MCSO Training Keeps Communication Open

First Place–Phoenix residents and Transition Academy students recently took a trip to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Training Academy to participate in an autism awareness training session. Deputies and First Place participants took time getting to know each other and talking about the various roles of the MSCO in our community. Then they did some helpful role-playing, including what a traffic stop is like; how, when and what they should disclose about their disability when speaking with an officer; and what to do and say when calling 911 for an emergency. The highlight of the day was watching an MCSO helicopter land!

It’s always a positive experience working with local law enforcement as we build our supportive community and create greater awareness and understanding between neurodiverse individuals and officers.

AZ Governor’s Declaration Spotlights Disability

Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs has officially named March “Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month” in recognition of the abilities and contributions of Arizona individuals with a developmental disability. Thank you, Governor Hobbs, for your support!

Transition Academy Discovery Day

The First Place Transition Academy recently held a Discover Day where individuals with autism and other neurodiversities and their families learned about the comprehensive, 32-course Learn4Independence® curriculum, toured First Place–Phoenix and spoke with current students and staff. Enrollment for the 2023-25 cohort is still open for a limited time. Register here or contact brad herron-valenzuela, managing director of the Transition Academy, at with questions.

Welcome to First Place–Phoenix!

Two new staff members have recently joined the growing First Place team.

Rebecca Bauer joins the Community Life team as a wellness specialist. Rebecca holds a bachelor’s degree in exercise and wellness, as well as a master’s degree in clinical exercise physiology. She has experience as a personal trainer and working with neurodiverse individuals. Rebecca’s role includes working with residents on nutrition and wellness education, grocery shopping, cooking and nutrition planning, as well as leading health and wellness activities…and more!

As our new midday concierge, Amanda Matthis brings extensive customer service experience and excellent organizational skills to the job, along with a deep understanding of individuals with neurodiversities.

Back to the Zoo!

First Place’s “Year of Exploration” sent residents to the Phoenix Zoo, a favorite year-round outing, to enjoy the beautiful Arizona spring weather—and explore!

Troubling Autism News from the CDC

The Centers for Disease Control has released a report stating that the rate of autism prevalence in the U.S. has jumped to one in 36 children receiving a diagnosis.

“Disruptions due to the pandemic in the timely evaluation of children and delays in connecting children to the services and support they need could have long-lasting effects,” said Karen Remley, MD, director of CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. “The data in this report can help communities better understand how the pandemic impacted early identification of autism in young children and anticipate future needs as these children get older.”

“Home Is Where It All Starts” Initiative Introduced by AHC

Denise D. Resnik, First Place AZ founder and president/CEO, spoke at the recent Arizona Housing Coalition Conference, where a new collaborative, multimedia housing campaign titled “Home is where it all starts” was launched—a concept near and dear to Denise’s heart that guides First Place–Phoenix. The goal is to educate the community at large on the disparities resulting from the growing lack of quality housing in our state.

Next LNCS “at the Carwash”

Join us for an inspiring LNCS session with entrepreneur, advocate and author Tom D’Eri, who shares innovative insights from his recent book, The Power of Potential: How a Non-Traditional Workforce Can Lead You to Run Your Business Better.

Tom will share his story about launching Rising Tide Carwash that now employs more than 100 people at three car washes serving half a million people every year. Over 80% of Rising Tide’s staff have autism, which has led to the development of streamlined workplace systems that work better for everyone. Register to attend in person or online and learn more about how to develop and employ some of these same strategies.