All Aboard with the 2023 Symposium

Join us for this year’s 12th First Place Global Leadership Institute Symposium October 18–20 (in person in Phoenix or via webinar) as we “get on board” in support of adults with autism and/or other neurodiversities through home, healthcare, employment, lifelong education and community options. Click here for a sampling of inspiring sessions and compelling panels that address complex issues, as well as progress in communities across the country.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Don’t miss out on the group hotel rate expiring this Saturday, Sept. 30! Embassy Suites by Hilton Phoenix Downtown North ($209/night) is just two blocks from First Place–Phoenix.

First Place Variety Show a VERY Big Hit!

Residents’ boundless talents were in the spotlight Friday for the first annual First Place–Phoenix Variety Show at Phoenix Center for the Arts. The night was filled with singing, dancing, laughing—and plenty of spirited cheering and encouragement from an audience of proud family members, friends and staff. The magical event was funded by a generous grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts. And thanks to their continued support, we’re looking forward to yet another showcase of First Place talent: a spring performance of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”

Bravo, First Place residents!  You filled our hearts as you commanded the stage with such unfettered fun, enthusiasm and joy!

Say “Yes!” to SARRC’s YES Day

We’re excited to join Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC) for another YES Day for Autism (its third year!). This FREE annual event on Saturday, Oct. 29 focuses on raising funds, awareness and acceptance in Arizona of individuals with autism and their families is growing in popularity. We hope you’ll join us and say YES to training and education, health and wellness, employment skill-building and community integration—all with the goal of more independent living.

First Place Community Life Alive and Well

Check out what residents have been up to this month—from a community service project to a “pop-up science”…with some eats in between!

Chef Titina, a First Place fave, was back again this month for another episode of “Clever Cooking” with a modern take on the 19th-century French fave, le croque monsieur. Residents used prosciutto and Havarti cheese to whip up their own fancy versions of an America standard: the grilled cheese sandwich.

Everyone was happy with the return of local high-schooler Harper Hipps and her ever-popular Pop-Up Science Club. Harper led residents through two out-of-this world experiments.

  • Residents pulled together to assemble “Kindness Kit” hygiene bags in support of Circle the City, a local nonprofit that provides “healthcare and hope” to thousands of adults and children facing homelessness across Maricopa County.
  • Rebecca Bauer, First Place–Phoenix health & wellness specialist, recently got residents chopping and mixing as she shared one of her favorite recipes: roasted vegetables.

Listening in on State Healthcare System Challenges

In collaboration with the NARBHA Institute and Make Waves Family Foundation, First Place AZ recently launched a series of listening sessions—with a kick-off in Flagstaff, Arizona—with the goal of facilitating conversations with key stakeholders concerning the healthcare system and the needs of adults with autism and other neurodiversities.

DEI at First Place: Hispanic Heritage Month

Our approach to diversity, equity and inclusion applies to all who interface with First Place, including residents, staff, board members and volunteers. Natasha Grant, MNLM, CESP, First Place’s director of workplace and community inclusion, oversees such activities, prompts important conversations, and creates and distributes an in-house monthly newsletter titled “Divergent Digest.” It sheds a monthly spotlight on relevant current events and their related historical references. Check out the September issue.

Statewide Home Campaign Launched in Arizona

First Place AZ has been actively engaged with tri-sector leaders on the development and launch of Home is where it all starts, a public awareness campaign powered by more than a dozen private, public and nonprofit/charitable organizations across Arizona. 

Leaders convened as part of a Communication Collaborative initiated by Home Matters® to Arizona, of which First Place AZ Founder and President/CEO Denise D. Resnik is vice board chair. The campaign addresses the housing crisis and is focused on ensuring that “every Arizonan has a place to be at home, empowering them to live stable and purposeful lives.” First Place AZ and other organizations are also working together to educate the public to ensure it also recognizes individuals with autism and/or other intellectual/ developmental disabilities.

Learn more about this dedicated Arizona team of champions for housing and how you can help at

Finding Meaning in Cleaning

In her latest blog, First Place AZ Founder and President/CEO Denise D. Resnik delves deeper into the meaning of son Matt’s affinity for cleaning.

By Denise D. Resnik, Founder & President/CEO

I’ve never seen anyone express as much joy cleaning their home as Matt Resnik. While I doubt he actually enjoys the loud vacuuming or quiet dusting, he certainly values checking things off his list.

From doing laundry and emptying the dishwasher or trash to cleaning all the counters and doorhandles, Matt meticulously advances through each step with confidence, earnestness—and a smile.

Routines and practice over the past several years are paying dividends—not only for Matt, but for his parents and family, too.

We find great joy in knowing how much he loves his independent life at First Place–Phoenix, which includes hanging out in his rocking chair, and watching videos and listening to music whenever he wants. Or helping himself to a bowl of popcorn at all hours (crumbs don’t lie!) and nightly reading with Grammy. And he loves playing Scrabble, Mario Kart and air hockey with friends who teach him new techniques and cheer him on.

Matt’s days are filled with his SMILE Biscotti business, where he’s learning new skills like navigating transportation, entering data and making sales calls with coworkers. He also volunteers each week at the Heard Museum, where he has mastered the library filing system. Wherever he goes, Matt constantly shows us the ways he works at overcoming the myriad challenges of autism as he also teaches us about kindness—and how to listen with our ears, eyes and hearts.

While we don’t know what Matt dreams about at night, as parents we do know we’re living the dream while he confidently continues to build a more joyful, independent life outside of our family home with friends, a supportive community—and a smile.