First Place AZ provides new resources for adults with autism

First Place AZ is a nonprofit organization that assists adults with autism in living more independently. With resources such as community support, academic lessons, and physician aid, First Place AZ is positioned to help hundreds of adults thrive.

Established in 2012, First Place AZ has a vision of “ensuring that housing and community options are as bountiful for people with autism as they are for everyone else,” according to Founder and CEO Denise Resnik. Achieving this, she explains, requires the creation of a marketplace that involves public, private, and nonprofit sectors.

First Place-Phoenix, the organization’s first apartment complex, currently has 35 residents with availability for 44 more. Although First Place does not have specific long-term goals for expansion, Resnik and her team hope to be the industry leader for assisted living facilities. To do this, they’ve partnered with multiple organizations and businesses in the state, including Arizona State University, Autism Speaks, Dignity Health, and more.

Through detailed accommodations and resources, First Place AZ is certainly setting the bar for living facilities across the nation. Resnik highlights some of the biggest advantages of First Place-Phoenix. “The physical property of First Place has adopted 10 specific rules and guidelines after evaluating hundreds of properties around the nation,” she states. “This includes infrastructure being responsive to sensory issues, security and safety issues, maintenance and durability issues, the locational properties such as the light rail, and much more.

In addition to the infrastructure, First Place-Phoenix also has First Place Transition Academy, a two-year academic program where residents can learn myriad skills and practices. Not only does the program have various courses, such as finance, health, nutrition, and travel, but it also provides students with a strong community.

First Place AZ is just another example of why Phoenix is what PBS NewsHour calls “the world’s most autism-friendly city.” Resnik elaborates about why the greater Phoenix area has this title. “Credit goes to the greater Phoenix area for its awareness, acceptance, and progressiveness in terms of integrating people with autism into society,” Resnik notes. “Phoenix has shown its support of the Southwest Autism Research & Research Center (SARCC) and collaborating organizations for the past 20 years.”

First Place AZ, in tandem with SARCC, aims to spread their leadership, research, and expertise throughout the nation. At the end of October, the organization hosted a Global Leadership Institute Symposium, which featured some of the nation’s biggest leaders from twenty different states. Through this, Resnik hopes that others will be able to adopt similar practices to ensure that everyone has the same resources across the country.

Ben Norman

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