After two years as a resident of First Place–Phoenix, Matt, who has autism, has learned how to live more independently—on his best days and even those that don’t go quite as planned—thanks to First Place’s supportive people, property and technology. He’s definitely exceeding our expectations and enjoying life!

Matt knows how to use a keycard, operate every appliance in his home and stay in touch with family. He’s quite adept at navigating technology apps—from his iWatch, iPhone and iPad to his Ring home security system alerting him to guests, Alexa Echo for music, weather and shopping lists, iGuard for stove safety and various First Place-sponsored platforms.

Problem-solving has been an important focus of Matt’s behavioral therapy with the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC). When he was young, we called it “playful obstruction.” Today, we simply call it “life” as he learns what to do and where to go about a lost key or misplaced wallet, or when he’s run out of his favorite food.

Developing a home for someone like Matt doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to build skills and routines, make friends and benefit from all the advantages of a connected, supportive community—and a one-of-a-kind place like First Place.

Even during this COVID-19 era, life remains fun, healthy and empowering for Matt and for us as parents. While there’s more for us all to master together, we know we’ll get there with the right people, environment and supports in the days and years ahead.

None of this would be possible without the passion and dedication of First Place staff. Every individual who works here shows up every day ready to serve every resident. Not only do they carry out their duties in a culture of professionalism, diligence and kindness, but they also understand the deeply personal aspect of their commitment to and involvement in residents’ daily lives, including their ups and downs, joys and newfound independence.

From the bottom of our hearts, we thank all those who have made and continue to make Matt’s life outside the family home possible—including neighbors and staff who take time to enjoy a spirited game of Uno and Scrabble with him most any time of the day or night.

During this season of gratitude and in the years to come, hopeful hearts will make us stronger and continue building our diverse community of pride, purpose and endless possibilities.