2024 Symposium Ready to Roll!

Join us for the 13th First Place Global Symposium, Oct. 16–18, as we explore the many dimensions that define our community. We’ll share challenges and approaches for mutual understanding—plus ideas for navigating and creating the places and spaces where we want to live, work, play and thrive.

We’re building on last year’s momentum with a dynamic lineup of speakers and events. You’ll be among many other trailblazers and courageous leaders for three grounding, informative and fortifying days. Choose between in-person and online attendance. Register now to receive the early-bird discount for in-person attendance.

Together, our varied dimensions will help move the needle as we work together to fuel a new marketplace of housing, healthcare and community options for adults with autism and/or neurodevelopmental disabilities.

Spark the Spectrum Event Sparks Interest in Voting

Election officials and disability rights advocates teamed up once again to offer an inspiring, informational and interactive voting workshop at the Ability360 Conference Center. The packed room of engaged participants heard from special guests Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes and Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, along with other voting officials, disability advocates and community representatives.

Check out what Arizona leaders have to say in the short video “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit” of more inclusive, accessible communities. Learn more about Vote the Spectrum and register to vote today through a unique, secure site created by the Secretary of State’s Office.

Make your voice heard! Monday, July 1 is the deadline to register to vote for the primary election on July 30. 

Be Ready, Be Employed, Be Proud!

The First Place Global Leadership Institute has kicked off the Be Ready℠ Employment Readiness Program for adults with autism and/or intellectual/developmental disabilities, neurodiversities and/or mental health diagnoses. Available online and in person, Be Ready prepares you with the skills, knowledge and confidence to get hired and succeed in the workplace. Be Ready, be employed, be proud! Register today for the six-week, in-person course starting Friday, July 12.

First Place–Phoenix Residents Show True PRIDE Colors

NYC Pride kicked off Pride Month with a compelling theme for 2024: “Reflect. Empower. Unite.” In that same spirit, First Place–Phoenix residents gathered as a tight-knit, diverse and inclusive community to show their true colors.

First Place–Phoenix Firsthand

First Place–Phoenix is a supportive residential apartment community where adults with autism and/or intellectual/developmental disabilities can thrive as they explore their true potential through a variety of services and activities. Residents can benefit from a suite of support services, employment opportunities and an enriching community life. Schedule your tour today!

‘Tis the season for spending time in the pool—and what better opportunity to combine leisure with some “cool” fitness moves? Aquatic specialist Donna Lewen recently made a splash at First Place–Phoenix, leading residents in some fun aqua-pilates exercises.

Chef Titina was back this month for Clever Cooking, turning the culinary teaching kitchen into an Italian trattoria. Residents and staff worked together with her expert guidance (she makes it look so facile!) to make homemade ravioli stuffed with chicken, ham and cheese—topped with a fabulous lamb marinara and dollops of pesto. Delizioso!

With the snap of some glow sticks and the boom of some tunes, the Zen Room became the Zumba Room when special guest Jon revved up residents for a rousing and illuminating Zumba glow party.

Sprouts Plant to Palate Program Sprouting

We’re feeling a bounty of gratitude to Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation for its generous support of our Plant to Palate program. Thanks to Sprouts, residents are enjoying access to these healthy recipes as part of the program.

Life to the Power of “3”

In her latest blog, First Place AZ Founder & President/CEO Denise D. Resnik reflects on son Matt’s latest birthday and ponders the significance of the number 3. Watch this two-minute video to experience the fun!

Ah, the Polished Pageantry of Prom!

Prom season is always a popular time at First Place–Phoenix when residents can enjoy socializing, having fun—and dancing the night away! It all started with shopping for just the right outfit before the big day when staff and other volunteers gathered for hands-on help with hair, nails and tie-tying. Then it was off to Ability360 in Phoenix for dining, dancing and delightful distractions for the Starry Night theme. Everyone enjoyed delicious fare (and the pièces de résistance for dessert…éclairs!) at tables graced with resident-made, light-up cloud centerpieces. The night was topped off with prizes awarded to Kevin, Emily and Chris B. for dancing the most! 💃🏻🕺🏻 See everyone next year!

Engaging Law Enforcement to Reinforce Trust

First Place–Phoenix residents and staff recently paid a visit to the Goodyear Police Department as part of First Place’s ongoing law enforcement engagement program. Spending time with officers provides the opportunity for mutual understanding, respect and trust to educate 1) adults with autism and/or intellectual/developmental disabilities (A/I/DD) about the role of law enforcement in the community and 2) officers about how to effectively and safely communicate with adults with A/I/DD during any potential interaction. We’ve also spent time with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and Gilbert Police Department. Thanks, Goodyear P.D., for spending valuable time with us!

Arizona’s Motor Vehicle Division has also teamed up with DPS and University of Arizona to help autistic drivers navigate encounters with police if they’re pulled over. Learn more.

Another SARRC Breakfast for the History Books

The 2024 SARRC Community Breakfast drew crowds of supporters—including First Place AZ Founder and President/CEO Denise D. Resnik—bright and early to the Arizona Biltmore. Decked out in her Vote the Spectrum T-shirt, Denise stands with with Arizona Senator Flavio Bravo (at Denise’s right in photo at right), who championed a specialty autism license plate bill with First Place AZ and SARRC which Governor Katie Hobbs signed into law last month.

Arizona Leaders Are Listening to First Place

Thank you, ArizonaSenator Mark Kelly, for taking the time to meet with members of the First Place Global Leadership Institute in Washington, D.C. to discuss new and innovative ways to address the health and wellness needs of individuals with A/I/DD. Our research and development team is also actively working with Arizona leaders—including U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema and U.S. Representative Greg Stanton—to develop an inclusive, responsive clinic model informing the broader healthcare system, ensuring no one is medically misunderstood oruntreated because of their disability diagnosis. We‘re grateful for their help in paving the way!

Vote the Spectrum to Conduct Second Workshop June 25

First Place AZ is partnering with Ability360 in Phoenix, where Vote the Spectrum will host a second voter accessibility workshop, “Spark the Spectrum,” from 3 to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, June 25. Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes and Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer will join us for this special two-hour event to familiarize individuals with autism and/or intellectual/developmental disabilities with the voting process and accommodations. Ability360 empowers all people with disabilities in innovative ways to live more independently within the community. First Place launched Vote the Spectrum in October 2023—and it continues to build momentum. Read more about this important community event and sign up here.

Chicago-Style Inspiration and Collaboration

Members of the First Place Global Leadership Institute recently landed in Chicago to meet with remarkable leaders and experience the area’s historic, new and promising residential properties and life skills, employment and enrichment programs. We found sources of inspiration and collaboration at innovative, like-minded organizations like Urban Autism Solutions, Keshet, Our Place, Misericordia, Autonomy Works, Center for Enriched Living and Jewish Family & Children Services. 

We thank our enterprising colleagues and their amazing residents and clients for the gracious hospitality. We greatly appreciated the chance to explore how together we can build a sustainable marketplace to ensure residential and community options are as bountiful for adults with autism and/or intellectual/developmental disabilities as they are for everyone else. 

Alive and Well!

When it comes to creative crafting, K2 Adventures Foundation always comes through for First Place–Phoenix. Residents gathered for a Mother’s Day project to choose among spring blooms and add their own unique touches to flower baskets for some very special moms.

First Place–Phoenix offers many avenues for creativity. Judging by a recent activity in our Space to Create, there are boulevards, streets and roads, too! Watch as residents create their own personal street signs—with designs that went in every possible direction. Honk if you love making art!

Residents recently journeyed into new territory with pizza—cooked on the grill! The fearless and ever-popular Chef Titina returned to lead the way, offering residents the chance to add unusual ingredients like chimichurri, blue cheese and chorizo colorado. Judging by their reactions, they may never settle for plain old pepperoni again!

Sunday socials are always a recipe for a good time—and good food! A May gathering featured fresh fare and fellowship as everyone worked together to whip up and enjoy a delicious meal in the culinary teaching kitchen, where there’s always a sense of community on the menu.

With inspiration provided by the Joey Lowenstein Family Foundation and our Space to Create provided by the Leibowitz Family & Friends, residents celebrated National Creativity Day with paint, poetry and pride!

Another Family Fun Night, Another Big Hit!

Everyone loves the annual Family Fun Night, a special, fun time to gather and enjoy the many benefits of community at First Place–Phoenix. This year’s event was no exception and turned out to be magical—literally! Along with carnival games, burgers on the grill and an ice cream truck, residents and their families were treated to a mesmerizing magic show. Huge thanks to First Place staff who so lovingly and avidly put it all together.

Vote the Spectrum™ in the National Conversation

Diana Diaz-Harrison, lead founder, executive director and board president of Arizona Autism Charter Schools—and longtime First Place champion and Learn4Independence® licensee—is a fearless advocate for people with autism and/or intellectual/developmental disabilities. Recently, Forbes gave her the opportunity to write about one of her favorite causes: Vote the Spectrum! Enjoy Diana’s inspiring article here.

The First Place Global Leadership Institute Goes to Washington

The First Place Global Leadership Institute (GLI) took a train to Washington D.C. in April—well, figuratively. The Institute was invited to our nation’s capital by the Office of National Autism Coordination from the National Institute of Mental Health to present “Sound Tracks,” the GLI-produced, train-inspired film capturing the life journeys of photographer Blair Bunting and musician Laura Nadine, two artists with autism.

Along with Blair, Laura and director John Schaffer, First Place AZ Founder & President/CEO Denise D. Resnik spoke about the transformative power of self-expression and creativity. In addition to a filled auditorium, more than 100 people from across the U.S. joined on Zoom. A lively Q&A followed the panel discussion.

The GLI makes the most of every opportunity; so, while in D.C., the Phoenix contingent met with members of Congress and their staffs—from Arizona and beyond—to discuss the future of healthcare and housing for adults with autism and/or intellectual/developmental disabilities. There’s much more to come!

Community Life: Residents Are Out and About!

In honor of Earth Day, residents and staff took a trip off the beaten path to the Arizona Worm Farm to tour the 10-acre urban property. Everyone dug deep as they learned about red wriggler worms, compost, carbon capture, waste reduction and worm breeding. It was a down-to-earth day, to say the least!

Chef Titina and residents recently spent a perfect day out by the grill whipping up tacos, pico de gallo and guacamole. Everyone turned the prep into a party—dicing tomatoes, chopping onions, scooping out avocados, shaking spices and grilling chicken. Chef Titina, you are the tac-o-First Place!

When the Arizona Diamondbacks took the field for their annual Autism Awareness Night game, residents were in the stands cheering for the home team. While the D’Backs didn’t come out on top, it was still a winning time!

A hands-on science lesson ended up on residents’ wrists when Harper Hipps, local high school student and creator of Immerse Pop-Up Science Club, recently returned to First Place–Phoenix. After making bracelets using binary-coded beads, the group learned about capillary action using paper towels, water and food coloring. What will brainiac Harper think of next?!

Residents and staff recently took advantage of the fine Arizona spring weather to visit the African savannah—at the Phoenix Zoo! Their friendly guide showed them some of the most popular residents, including the cheetahs, lionesses and rare white rhinos. It’s always a long sign-up sheet for this seasonal outing!

Turning Fitness into Fashion

Longtime First Place AZ champion K2 Adventures Foundation continues to dazzle through the annual “Summer in the City" Luncheon and Fashion Show fundraiser. Residents were front and center at Scottsdale’s Westin Kierland Resort and Spa as they strutted their stuff in stylish summer outfits to the audience’s (and models’!) delight. This amazing event supports individuals with disabilities and their families across Arizona through K2’s various programs focused on health, wellness and, as always, FITNESS!

First Place Global Leadership Institute: People are Listening!

“I am capable.” “I am different, not less.” These were words heard at the first of several Listening Sessions offered to jobseekers with autism and/or intellectual/developmental disabilities (A/I/DD) and job coaches through the Global Leadership Institute’s groundbreaking Be Ready™ employment initiative.

The sessions are designed to cultivate more neuro-inclusive workplaces with the participation of adults with A/I/DD and job coaches encouraged to share their successes and challenges on the employment journey.

Key workplace hurdles shared include a lack of employer understanding regarding their disability, adapting to evolving routines and inconsistent working environments. This kind of encouragement serves as a powerful motivator, igniting their passion for work, fueling their commitment and a profound sense of purpose. Such insights are helping shape strategies for more inclusive and supportive workplaces for all. Stay tuned for more session info!

Good Grief, What a Performance!

On a recent delightful spring Saturday evening, the stage at Phoenix Center for the Arts was brimming with pride and confidence as the First Place–Phoenix cast of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown (Revised)” put on a funny, joyous and musically mesmerizing performance for a full house of proud family and friends. Thank you, Arizona Commission on the Arts, ASU’s Design and Arts Corps and First Place’s dedicated support staff for making it all possible. And congratulations to the cast and crew—you made it an unforgettable night for everyone!

Meet Two New and Improved Websites!

We’ve created two separate and distinct websites to better meet the needs of First Place–Phoenix and residents with autism and/or other intellectual/developmental disabilities and their families, as well as to capitalize on the growing impact of the First Place Global Leadership Institute.

firstplaceaz.org: While the URL should look familiar, the site has been rewritten, reorganized and redesigned. It’s your place for information pertaining to First Place–Phoenix’s beautiful one- and two-bedroom apartments, its beautiful amenities, the trailblazing Transition Academy and our robust community life.

firstplaceglobal.org: The First Place Global Leadership Institute now has a site dedicated to its five centers and the many critical issues they address. It’s also your destination for the annual First Place symposium, Lifelong Networks for Communities of Support (LNCS) sessions, licensing of the Learn4Independence® curriculum and much more!

We invite you to visit these sites to stay informed, connected and engaged with First Place–Phoenix and the First Place Global Leadership Institute.

Denise Resnik Puts Spectrum of a Healthy Democracy on the Horizon

Denise Resnik recently joined host Ted Simons on KAET Channel 8’s Arizona Horizon to talk about how we broaden the spectrum of inclusive communities and a healthy democracy. This includes those impacted who can access a unique URL created with the Secretary of State’s office and accommodations available through the Maricopa County Recorder and Elections Department.

Denise used the PBS platform to highlight Vote the Spectrum™, the statewide nonpartisan movement to register voters. Watch for more efforts to elevate voter registration, education and participation—and join us as champions like the prominent leaders featured in this brief, compelling video. Learn more at votethespectrum.org.

Democracy Dialogues: What It Takes to Form a More Perfect Union

“We the people” is as inclusive as it gets. So when ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Flinn Foundation and Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust recently hosted journalist, author and former U.S. Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Richard Stengel for Democracy Dialogues, the conversation also included the needs of people with autism and/or intellectual/developmental disabilities.

With an audience that included members of Greater Phoenix Leadership, students and various special guests, Mr. Stengel provided an educated point of view and answered a range of smart questions before inviting First Place AZ Founder and President/CEO Denise Resnik to the stage to talk about Vote the Spectrum. This powerful platform put the growing movement in front an enthusiastic crowd—most of whom did not leave without a Vote the Spectrum sticker in hand. It was a victorious day for democracy!

Save the Date: Arizona Gives Day Tuesday, April 2

Please consider supporting First Place AZ, the nonprofit providing a path to independence for adults with autism and/or other intellectual/developmental disabilities (A/I/DD). At First Place–Phoenix, residents are proudly proving that adults with A/I/DD can thrive in a home they call their own. At the First Place Global Leadership Institute, we’re addressing complex issues with data-driven strategies and innovative solutions. Learn more and give today!

Community Life: Residents Are Out and About!

Residents are cooking up another series of Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation “Plant to Palate” videos, so it was time to step back into the Phoenix recording studio at AEMedia with our friend Bob Giammarco. The Sprouts scripts walk viewers through four easy-to-make recipes using various ingredients from our own First Place–Phoenix garden.

The weather was perfect and the time was ripe for a trip to the Uptown Farmers Market, so residents joined the hungry crowd and explored it together—from the colorful fresh fruit stands to the sizzling food trucks.

On a recent visit to Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, residents grabbed some boots and went back in time to the 17th century to learn about Father Kino’s interactions with Arizona’s Native American tribes. Thanks to the always-amazing Wade Weber, the museum’s director of education, residents came back to the present with some colorful and memorable stories.

A Night to Show Our Team Spirit and Community Pride

Root for the home team and our great autism community on Friday, April 12 when you join the fun at the Arizona Diamondbacks Autism Awareness Night game. Tickets for First Place–Phoenix fans are available at a discounted rate—and a portion will be donated to autism programs throughout Arizona. You’ll even receive a clear D-Backs drawstring bag. Get your tickets here.

March Divergent Digest Focuses on Brave Women in History

International Women’s Day on March 8 is the perfect reason to check out First Place’s March issue of the Divergent Digest. This month’s issue is packed with fascinating facts about women in history who have used their creativity, bravery and resolve to make an enduring difference in their efforts to show that women are just as capable as men. There’s also a complete calendar of the many notable and diverse events taking place this busy month.

Vote the Spectrum™ Continues Blazing Trails

February was an energizing month for Vote the Spectrum, with workshops for champions to familiarize them with toolkits, as well as a mock election and visit from Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes. Together with officials from the Maricopa County Elections Office and Recorder’s Office, Secretary Fontes walked and talked us through voter registration and the voting process before answering questions. Valued collaborators leading on voter education, participation and broadening our spectrum of democracy also joined us from Ability360Disability Rights ArizonaRaising Special Kids and The Arc of Arizona.

Attendees included residents and family members from First Place–Phoenix and Arizona Autism Charter Schools students who tried out the voting booth. They also learned about a range of accommodations with a representative from Maricopa County Voter Assistance Services.

Developed by the First Place Global Leadership Institute, Vote the Spectrum is a nonpartisan voter education and registration movement empowering and amplifying the voices of people with autism and /or intellectual/developmental disabilities, those who care about them and anyone who appreciates the value of a healthy, inclusive democracy for everyone. Learn more at votethespectrum.org—and stay tuned for updates!

Charlie Brown Coming to a Theater (Stage) Near You!

Join us for the big night Saturday, March 16 at 7 p.m. at Phoenix Center for the Arts. Residents, Transition Academy students, staff and our theater friends and graduate students from Arizona State University’s Design & Arts Corps couldn’t be more excited. Huge thanks to our supportive community partner Arizona Commission on the Arts for making another invaluable life skills experience possible! Purchase your tickets here for $5 (plus fee).

February Divergent Digest

First Place–Phoenix’s February issue of the Divergent Digest is full of compelling content spotlighting Black History Month.

Community Life: Pink Dinner, Cupid’s Arrows and Floral Flair

With Valentine’s Day a not-so-distant February memory, Chef Titina was back with fun food activities—and a fabulous menu—for a “pink dinner” with residents and staff. Everyone donned pink aprons and sipped pink mocktails as they worked together to build the meal by spearing fruit and setting a lovely table. Everyone was tickled pink!

Taking aim on some real adventure, residents visited the local Papago Archery Range to receive a lesson or two from one of their friendly certified coaches. For many, it was the first time nocking and releasing an arrow—but they gave it a shot as they learned the finer points of archery and left their marks on the targets. 

Who’s ready to witness some fitness? Our longtime friends at the K2 Adventures Foundation, in collaboration with Results Only Fitness, recently put everyone through a full-body workout—and they shined like never before. (And that’s not just a reference to sweat!)

Residents just LOVE showing off their creativity—and Valentine’s Day gave them the perfect opportunity to let their talents blossom. After making fabulous floral wreaths for their apartment doors with Nicole Newman from K2 Adventures Foundation, they gathered in our popular new Space to Create with renowned artist Joe Ray and painted to their hearts’ content.

Board-certified music therapist Autumn McClintock turned the latest visit from Mind-Full Music Therapy Services into a mind bender. From her bag of tricks—and letters—she pulled out a variety of sources to create something called “chance music” to encourage creative spontaneity. Was it fun? By chance, it was!

Getting to the Heart of the Matter Through the Arts & Humanities

First Place returned to Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West for an unforgettable evening with special guests, including renowned photographer Blair Bunting, violinist Laura Nadine, film producers Caren Zucker and John Schaffer and artist Calvin Shin. Guests learned about workforce/workplace development initiatives, positive results through a five-year collaboration between The Precisionists Inc. and SRP, and ways they can become involved in building a more supportive community through resources like the In A Different Key Toolkit for Autism Understanding. It takes us all! Let us know how you’d like to get involved.

February Save-the-Date: Vote the Spectrum Workshop

Join us for the first Vote the Spectrum Workshop at First Place–Phoenix on Feb. 27. Guided by the principle that democracy must respect the rights and freedoms of all, the First Place Global Leadership Institute has launched Vote the Spectrum (VTS), an Arizona-based voting initiative informing and activating our community to include individuals with autism and other neurodiversities, along with family members, educators, employers, healthcare professionals, neighbors—and all people who care.

To learn more and get involved, join us on Tuesday, Feb. 27 for our first Vote the Spectrum Workshop from 4–6 p.m. at First Place–Phoenix, 3001 N. Third Street.

Hear from Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes and other valued collaborators as we work together to empower champions with the tools, resources and sites needed to reach our respective communities and stakeholders to achieve our goal of registering 10,000 voters this year.

Learn what First Place AZ, Maricopa County, the State of Arizona and leading organizations like The ArcDisability Rights Arizona and Raising Special Kids can do for you. Experience standard and accessible voting booths, helpful educational tools—and much more! Register here. We look forward to seeing you next month!

Resident Wins “Best in Show” at Dogtopia

Kudos to First Place–Phoenix resident Whitney, who received the January Employee of the Month unanimous honor at her local Dogtopia location. As a canine coach at one of First Place’s more popular supportive vocational partners, Whitney’s duties include controlling a large open-play area for dogs and teaching basic commands, as well as keeping an eye on pup behaviors and addressing any issues that come up. Asked why she was chosen, she made no bones about it: “I’m really good with dogs.” Congrats, Whitney!

Bridging the Healthcare Gap: Next Listening Session in Tucson

The First Place Global Leadership Institute has the lofty goal of creating a healthcare equity model where no one goes untreated or is medically misunderstood because of autism and/or other intellectual and developmental disabilities (A/I/DD) in Arizona and beyond. This requires lots of collaboration among various aligned stakeholders.

Thanks to the NARBHA Institute, Francis Family Foundation and Make WavesFirst Place Global Leadership Institute (GLI) is hosting a free public Listening Session at the Community Foundation Campus in Tucson on Friday, Feb. 2 from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Please join us as we bring together key organizations involved in the healthcare system and acknowledge the complex needs of adults with A/I/DD. Sessions will be facilitated by Maureen Casey, director of the Colonel Harland Sanders Center for Applied Research and The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation Center for Public Policy at the GLI, along with various other First Place leaders. The NARBHA Institute is committed to “the integration of physical and behavioral health and community reinvestment to illuminate and strengthen health equity.” Reserve your spot. We look forward to seeing you!

Community Life: Push-Ups, Pasta & Princes

Check out what residents were up to this month, including jousting, fitness and ever-popular cooking!

  • Residents committed to starting 2024 off on the right foot (and leg and arm) with their participation in a recent #workoutwednesday in our on-site GoodLife Fitness room. Staff led them through various exercises using different types of equipment. As the saying goes, “Every day is a good day to work out.” You got this!
  • When Chef Titina is in the First Place–Phoenix culinary teaching kitchen, she doesn’t always have residents do things the easy way. On her most recent visit to First Place–Phoenix, she and her regular fans made pasta the old-fashioned way: by hand. Mama mia!
  • Who needs forks and spoons when there are swords and lances? That’s what First Place–Phoenix residents discovered when they recently traveled back to the Middle Ages for jousting, swordsmanship, jousting and dinner at Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament. It was a knight they’ll never forget!

All Aboard: Unique Drawing Keeps First Place Moving

Are First Place–Phoenix residents riffing off that amazing Bob Case Illustration? With Bob’s permission, residents enjoyed a chance at self-expression by coloring a black and white image and creating their own versions from the original Bob produced in kind exclusively for First Place AZ. The timeless image, introduced during the First Place Global Leadership’s 12th Symposium last fall, represents our steady movement forward by encouraging others to join us. Are you all aboard?

Join Us for a Virtual Tour

During monthly virtual tours, you’ll learn about the First Place–Phoenix Apartments and Transition Academy, which is currently enrolling for the 2024 class. Learn about community life, employment, and health and wellness programs, as well as state-of-the-art amenities that include a workout room, sports pool, reading lounge, culinary teaching kitchen—and our friendly, knowledgeable 24/7 concierges. Register today—and see firsthand why “We’re the place for that.®” Register here.

Happy Holidays from First Place–Phoenix!

Thanks to everyone who joined us for the annual Holiday Tour of Doors! First Place–Phoenix residents, Transition Academy students and staff spread holiday joy as they led tours around the property, showcasing the unique creativity that made their doors so festive and fun.  Congratulations to winners for Best Theme, Most Unique, Most Festive, Most Colorful and Most Creative! Watch the fun here.

Amy Lutz Makes Her Mark at December LNCS

Parents and staff attended a compelling Lifelong Networks for Communities of Support (LNCS) session with longtime First Place champion Amy Lutz, Ph.D., who shared insights from her new book titled, Chasing the Intact Mind: How the Severely Autistic and Intellectually Disabled Were Excluded from the Debates That Affect Them Most. As a founding board member of the National Council on Severe Autism and the devoted mother of an adult son with severe autism, Amy is passionate in her pursuit of effective policies and solutions needed for the surging population of individuals, families and caregivers affected by severe forms of autism and related disorders.

LNCS (pronounced “links”) is a group of parents and family members committed to coaching and connecting families to achieve action-oriented outcomes. The goal of LNCS is to help pave the way to more independent and joyful living for individuals—and peace of mind for families.

Community Life: Learning, Laughs & Lyrics

Check out what residents were up to this month—from spares and strikes to cooking up something special for the holidays with ever-popular Chef Titina—with some science in between!

Residents and staff were “over the moon” after the latest visit from First Place–Phoenix fave Harper Hipps, local high school student and creator of Immerse Pop-Up Science Club. Harper led everyone through the fun and enlightening (literally!) construction of constellation cups and a cool moon-phase contraption, topped off by the always-popular-go-outside-and-make-something-fly experiment.

With instruments in hand and joy in their hearts, residents were laughing in harmony during their recent gathering for Mind-Full Music Therapy Services. Led by board-certified music therapist Autumn McClintock, they created a parody of the holiday classic, “Santa Baby.” Just like the original, it was a hit!

The lanes at Let It Roll Bowl were rocking when residents and staff showed up, ready with their A games. It was a big afternoon of camaraderie and competition, with plenty of whoops, wows and high-fives—because that’s how we roll at First Place.

Chef Titina never leaves anyone hungry after an engaging and delicious session in the First Place Culinary Teaching Kitchen—and this month was no exception! She and residents prepared a traditional prime rib with chimichurri—a recipe from her native Argentina—green beans with almonds and cranberries, and Russian potato salad. It was a holiday feast that left everyone feeling festive…and full!

Vote the Spectrum in Local News

Vote the Spectrum is taking off! We’re happy to report that our nonpartisan voting registration initiative is catching the attention of people living with autism and/or other intellectual/developmental disabilities, champions from the autism and disability community, state and civic leaders across the political spectrum and local press. Learn more here about how you can register to vote as a Vote the Spectrum champion.

360 Health & Wellness Workshops Back in 2024

The popular and informative First Place 360 Health & Wellness workshop series for adults with autism and other neurodiversities and their families is back! Together, participants can build their Peace of Mind Portfolios with “Supporting Independence” for parents, guardians and support providers and “Staying Healthy” for neurodiverse individuals. The series starts in January 2024 and runs through March. Register here.

Denise ASU Speech

Denise D. Resnik, First Place AZ founder & president/CEO, recently had the honor of addressing graduates of ASU’s School of Health Solutions during the convocation. First Place enjoys an ongoing collaboration with ASU to help ensure equitable access to quality healthcare for adults with autism and other neurodiversities. Denise’s message to the 2023 graduating class: “Locate your North Star to direct and ground you; allow yourself to dream, adopting a vision for impact and a happy life filled with purpose; and build your supportive community to fortify you every step of the way!”

‘Tis the Season for Tax Credits

Help make a difference with your tax dollars by donating to First Place AZ, a qualified charitable organization! Joint filers can claim up to $841 and individuals $421 for a dollar-for-dollar tax credit on their 2023 taxes. Please consider supporting our vision to ensure that housing and community options are as bountiful for people with autism and other neurodiversities as they are for everyone else. Click here to donate—and thank you for your support!

Family Fun Night

Annual Family Fun Night is an opportunity for residents to welcome their loving and supportive families to an evening that gives them a taste of community life at First Place–Phoenix. Everyone gathered around Joey’s Grill outside for great food and played games in the Cox Community Room before ending the evening by our Thunderbirds Charities Sports Pool for s’mores and hot cocoa. Thank you, First Place families and staff, for making this another fun annual night to remember!

Vote the Spectrum Momentum

Excitement continues to build from the #VoteTheSpectrum launch at SARRC’s 2023 Yes Day for Autism last month. Thank you to everyone who has already joined the movement! If you haven’t yet, visit votethespectrum.org, register to vote and register your interest in making a difference.

December LNCS Focus: Living with Severe Autism

Learn more about December’s LNCS session featuring Amy Lutz, Ph.D. She will discuss the realities of severe autism and share insights from her new book, Chasing the Intact Mind.

Amy Gravino—autism sexuality advocate, consultant and relationship coach—gave an important and engaging presentation on healthy relationships, sex and dating during this November's LNCS session. Amy was featured in the award-winning 2021 documentary about autism, In a Different Key. Drawing on her own lived experiences, Amy shared tips and strategies for empowering families to address sexuality and disability, puberty and dating, along with other relevant topics.

First Place Community Life Alive and Well!

  • Residents found that maxi things come from making mini pumpkin pies together for Thanksgiving: flavorful filling, friendship and, most important, fun!
  • The holidays are a great time to remember those in need. This month, residents and staff spent an afternoon at St. Mary’s Food Bank packing meal boxes for families across Arizona.

November was Native American Heritage Month. This gave First Place–Phoenix residents all the inspiration they needed on a recent visit to S'edav Va'aki Museum in Phoenix. Everyone left with a greater sense of appreciation and respect.

It may have rained the night before, but that didn’t stop an intrepid bunch of residents from hitting the trail in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve with First Place volunteer Marla Weiss, who always makes hiking fun and inclusive.

GivingTuesday Gives a Chance for Gratitude

To shine a bright light on GivingTuesday, we expressed—and continue to express—our gratitude to everyone who supports independent living at First Place–Phoenix and the transformative efforts of the First Place Global Leadership Institute. This includes dear friends and First Place champions Judy Ackerman and Richard Epstein, whose generosity and vision have helped fund activities of the ever-popular Adventure Club, a year-round resident favorite. We are forever grateful!

Insights on Neurodiversity in the Workplace

Natasha Grant Holmberg, MNLM, CESP, First Place AZ director of workplace and community inclusion, recently weighed in on avoiding stereotyping neurodiverse individuals in a blog published by the Mastercard Newsroom. Read what attendees learned at Mastercard’s early-November Neurodiversity in the Workplace Summit at its St. Louis Tech Hub about the struggles, productivity and potential of the neurodivergent population. 

12th Symposium Exceeds Expectations—and Makes Many Memorable Moments!

Huge thanks to all—attendees, speakers and our generous sponsors—for being part of the 12th First Place Global Leadership Institute Symposium, in person and via webinar.

Participation by and positive feedback from so many local and national pioneering leaders is a testament to the continued interest in fueling a new generation of housing, healthcare and community options for people with autism and other neurodiversities. Together, we can—and will—change the world! 

Enjoy this brief snapshot that captures the essence of three unforgettable and productive days together. And mark your calendars for #13 next October 16–18!

Nov. 2 Screening of New Film “Understanding Autism”

This compelling documentary by Golden Globe®-winning producer/director Scott Steindorff explores the latest research in autism—and how empathy and emotion can help autistic people live happier and more functional lives. Scott was a guest at the symposium, where he spoke with heart and passion about autism through his unique lens (literally) and showed attendees the compelling trailer.

“Understanding Autism” is showing for FREE at 7 p.m. on Thursday evening, Nov. 2 in Mesa at MIX: the Media and Immersive Experience Center. MIX is a collaboration between the City of Mesa and ASU, Scott’s alma mater. RSVP here and get ready for an unforgettable journey through autism—and stick around for a “talkback” with Scott.

A Collective Nod for SARRC’s 2023 YES Day for Autism

Families and friends, along with countless strollers and playful pups, were out in droves on Sunday, Oct. 29 at Tempe Beach Park for Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center’s Third Annual YES! Day for Autism. This SARRC event continues to grow in popularity and attendance as the community comes together in a concerted effort “to create more supportive, inclusive communities for people with autism.” 

From 9 a.m. to noon, activities included a Resource Fair with booths and information from Arizona autism providers, live entertainment, eats and treats, a carnival and “Kids’ Zone,” and Sprouts’ perpetually popular pumpkin patch.

This year’s event was also the perfect time and place for First Place AZ to introduce two new key initiatives: Vote the Spectrum, a movement to help raise awareness about the voting rights of individuals with autism and other neurodiversities; and Kiip, an innovative “digital locker” app that keeps vital documents secure, organized and accessible—a convenient and FREE tool for the populations we serve and their families.

Thanks to all who showed up to share. Such invaluable community exchanges continue to drive the momentum for lasting, positive change for the populations we serve and their devoted families.

Notable October Honors for First Place Founder Denise D. Resnik

Denise was honored this month by two leading organizations that recognize dedicated Arizonans who have made and continue to make an enduring difference on myriad levels in our great state.

Denise is proud to join an esteemed list of Historical League Arizona Historymakers, started in 1991, who have distinguished themselves in such areas as arts, athletics, communications, community service, education and entertainment.

The Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame, founded in 1981, also welcomed Denise and three other women of noteworthy accomplishments from around the state, along with four late women leaders inducted as legacy members. Its mission is to “honor, preserve and celebrate the stories of exceptional Arizona women.”

Kudos, Denise, for these amazing honors. First Place AZ is also grateful to benefit from your well-deserved recognition that helps keep autism present in the local, state, national and international consciousness. Onward!

Nov. 7 Webinar on Neurodiverse Arizona Communities

One in 36 children in Arizona is affected by autism, with a growing number of adults being diagnosed with autism and/or intellectual/developmental disabilities. Our communities are facing unprecedented demand for healthcare and support services related to neurodiversity—the term for an array of neurological differences.

Join us at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 7 the First Place Global Leadership Institute’s latest webinar, sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona’s Foundation for Community & Health Advancement and titled “Healthcare Equity for Neurodiverse Communities: Leveraging Applied Research and Partnerships.” We’ll take a closer look at the impact of neurodiversity in Arizona. Register here for this free Zoom event. We hope you’ll join us!

First Place Community Life Alive and Well!

Check out what residents were up to this month—from petting some pretty awesome pups to tapping into their creative side—with some eats in between!

Residents are working at staying active and strong in First Place–Phoenix’s Good Life Fitness room with health & wellness specialist and First Place friend Rebecca Bauer.

Who doesn’t love a scavenger hunt? Residents sleuthed around the property for odds and ends before mingling over tacos—and a few laughs about their circuitous pursuits.

Precious pups from Pawsitive Friendships popped by on World Mental Health Day to share the power of unconditional love with residents.

Residents recently returned to Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West for another visit and to tap into their creative side during an “inspiriting” art lesson.

First Place AZ in Good Company for Employment Expansion

The First Place Global Leadership Institute is honored to be included in the list of 16 organizations recently awarded funding by the Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family (GOYFF) in support of workforce development expanding employment opportunities for Arizonans. The grant for First Place’s be OPEN + be Ready employment initiative will help position Arizona employers in need of loyal, capable employees to train and hire adults with autism and other neurodiversities—so everyone wins!

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.

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 homeiswhereitallstarts.org.

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.