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Taking the time to view these two extraordinary segments filmed right here in Phoenix in 2016 will give added perspective into what First Place is aspiring to do in our community and beyond.

Giving adults with autism the skills to build independent lives

How Phoenix became the most autism-friendly city in the world

Students are continually assessed and their progress is monitored at the two-year Transition Academy. Goals are reviewed and adjusted as needed based on individual progress.

A significant part of the second year is dedicated to “your next place.” Students take classes and get one-to-one support to identify where they want to live next and what they might need to maintain their goals for employment and an independent life. From day one, there is an emphasis on budgeting so that students save enough money to pay for their first and last months’ rent upon graduation.

During the last semester, we also focus on employment skills to support identifying full-time work and career paths. Employment is a priority from the start of the program and students move into paid internships and part-time employment while in the program. We work with the supportive community to identify business partners invested in creating a more diverse workforce and tapping into the talents our students can bring to an organization. We work with students to identify their strengths, needs and preferences; then we identify organizations that meets those criteria.

The two-year Transition Academy is currently operating from a beta site property called 29 Palms, where participants reside in two-bedroom apartments, also known as independent-living classrooms. Nine two-bedroom units for Transition Academy participants are co-located with 12 multigenerational units for non-First Place residents. 

Starting in 2018, annual Transition Academy tuition is $48,000 ($4,000 per month), which includes the apartment lease, utilities, community college tuition and instruction. Participants will live at First Place-Phoenix in one of the four four-bedroom suites during their first year and reside at 29 Palms during their second year as they progress to more independent living. Tuition rates will be published this summer. The Transition Academy represents one of two residential options offered by First Place. The second option is the First Place Apartments.

Apartment leases start at $3,600 per month for one-bedroom apartments. Rates vary for the one- and two-bedroom units. A suite of services and amenities is included in the monthly rent.

At this time, the Transition Academy is available on a private pay basis. Partial scholarships are available. First Place continues working hard to identify and create tuition assistance resources, helping to reduce the cost to individuals and their families. Information about financial assistance and scholarship programs will be shared when available.

Apartments are available for one-year leases. Residents in good standing may renew annual leases for an unlimited length of time.

Yes. Residents may live at First Place-Phoenix without being enrolled in the Transition Academy. Following the two-year Transition Academy program, former participants may also return to First Place-Phoenix to live in an apartment.

With a suite of supportive services and an à la carte menu, First Place residents can design the supportive environment that is most appropriate for their individual needs, including assistance with independent living skills, social skills and career development.

First Place will have an on-site wellness coordinator who can monitor daily healthcare needs, provide individualized instruction to residents and help them become more independent to manage their personal health regimen.

First Place is also collaborating with Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital & Medical Center/Barrow Neurological Institute—located in close proximity to the property—to create an adult medical care program where all electronic medical records are maintained and a team of sub-specialty physicians addresses medical and health concerns.

First Place is only for people; pets are not permitted.

First Place and licensed service providers will maintain current and accurate histories of all residents, helping to ensure that we understand their individual interests, strengths, challenges and concerns and that we in turn help them maximize their potential for independent living.

The First Place staff will assist residents to become as fiscally independent as possible by implementing an individualized money management program.

First Place residents may choose from a menu of activities and programs designed to build life, work and social skills. Activities will also be balanced with leisure time. Participation reports will be shared with residents and their legal guardians to ensure desired levels of engagement.

Safety and security are primary concerns for all residents. Technology, resident and property protocols, and the First Place doorman will support and promote safety while respecting individual privacy.

  • For residents, as often as you like! This is your home and you and/or your family will make that decision.
  • For Transition Academy participants, visitors are limited to after program hours and before curfew.

Future phases of First Place may offer a condo option.

Supporting individuals to learn to live more independently is not inexpensive. The lifetime cost of supporting an individual with an autism spectrum disorder can cost up to $2.4 million. Public funds are scare to nonexistent and public policy is severely lacking in the creation of innovative, independent-living models. First Place is not only demonstrating greater innovation in housing options for people with autism and other neuro-diverse populations, but we’re paving the way for new models positioned for public funding. The goal is also for government funding to offset the significant cost of private pay and an ongoing effort to reduce the cost of living while increasing the quality of life for this population.

We are today with independent-living concerns where we were 20 years ago with early intervention. We can’t let another 20 years pass by before making significant progress with a realistic vision like First Place. We must all work together in greater numbers to form collaborations among public, private and nonprofit funding sources. It’s also why First Place is collaborating with more than 90 local and national organizations to keep moving forward.

There are numerous ways you may support First Place, such as joining us or donating.

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