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Global Leadership Institute

Impacting education, business, housing, healthcare and public policy.

Advancing Innovative Solutions for Home and Community Development.

Developed by distinguished leaders in this highly specialized field, the Leadership Institute is focused on pressing concerns for accessibility to more community, housing and independent living options for individuals with autism and other neurodiversities. It serves as a multidisciplinary, hands-on training center for professionals, educators, support staff and medical personnel, as well as a robust site for research and advancements in public policy.

The First Place Global Leadership Institute’s five centers facilitating the critical work and impact of First Place include collaborates with international experts and industry leaders through its five centers:

Maricopa County IDA Center for Education, Training & Employment

Center for Real Estate & Community Development

Colonel Harland Sanders Center for Applied Research

Mulzet Center for Expression/ Communication

The First Place Global Leadership Institute addresses 10 priority issues:


of Life




“Handicapped,” dependency mindset


Housing Crisis

Limited options, high cost/demand, dwindling government resources


Business Model

Scarcity of proven outcomes, replicable programs and private capital


Support Staff

Low wages, limited training, high turnover


Public Policy

Dated; limited innovation and integration



Need for large-scale initiatives defining best practices


Adult Medical Care

Too few practitioners on the cutting edge of autism servicing/supporting patients


Technology Platforms

Too varied and ever-changing; need for leveraging and maximizing



Broad range of diversity; lack of segmentation


The Leadership Institute hosts semiannual symposiums (spring and fall), attracting pioneers in a variety of fields from across the country and around the world. Attendees gather to share ideas for advancing a new wave of home and community solutions through replicable, sustainable models and public, private, nonprofit and philanthropic collaboration.

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Virtual Summer Workshop Series

We’re offering a series of three workshops focused on relevant, timely topics. Attendance is limited, so please register at your earliest convenience. Only $59 each or $149 for all three

Recordings are available up to 30 days after purchase.

Featuring Denise D. Resnik, Founder and President/CEO of First Place AZ; Co-Founder of SARRC, the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center.

Denise shares tips and strategies for creating authentic, inclusive communities and building content for stories that inspire and engage. Learn how to identify allies, cultivate mutually beneficial relationships, develop partnerships and create a connected community as you create a plan by tapping into resources that support your vision. During the workshop, you can start building your asset inventory and mapping community connections or add to your work already underway.

For added insight before the workshop, read Denise’s blog about lessons learned and a recent opinion column outlining how the work of First Place is focused on brighter futures for adults with autism and other neurodiversities.

Recordings are available up to 30 days after purchase.

Featuring Brad Herron-Valenzuela, Managing Director of the First Place Transition Academy, and Paige Raetz, PhD, BCBA-D, Director of Teen and Adult Services for the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center.

Respond to today’s ever-increasing demand in your community and region. With an estimated 60,000 individuals with autism transitioning into adulthood each year, proven programming is essential for successful independent living. 

Learn how the residential First Place Transition Academy utilizes a structured curriculum, Learn4Independence®, and targeted support for real-time learning—a critical combination for students’ long-term success. The team will share daily applications of classroom learning and how they help students build crucial independent living and career-readiness skills. 

Explore how lessons are applied at home and in the community through real-time learning along with components of our comprehensive transition program toolkit that can help jumpstart your program.

Featuring Denise D. Resnik, Founder and President/CEO of First Place AZ; Co-Founder of SARRC, the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center; Founder and CEO of DRA Collective.

Explore traditional and nontraditional strategies for reaching your many audiences, including future residents, families and referral sources. As a marketing and communications professional for nearly 40 years, Denise shares insights and counsel on campaign strategies that can connect you to community and financial resources, including charitable donors. Topics include developing your brand, understanding your audience(s), defining community development, creating a results-oriented communications plan—and more! 

For added insight before the workshop, read the recent article on the local news site about progress made and the challenges ahead.

Curriculum Licensing

Learn4Independence® is a 32-course, scaffolded curriculum developed for adults with autism that focuses on skills to promote independent living and employment. Unique curriculum elements accommodate various types of learning differences and incorporate universally designed instruction adaptable to your community and cultural needs.
Learn4Independence PPT Preview


Various levels of consulting are also offered by the Leadership Institute, with an emphasis on sharing expertise and lessons learned. Combined with the toolkits, this service offers effective strategies for saving time and money.

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As a resource to organizations committed to serving special populations and their families, the Leadership Institute has developed a variety of toolkits addressing specific areas to meet an organization’s needs— throughout specific or all stages of the project.

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Under the auspices of the Leadership Institute and in partnership with Arizona State University’s Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, the First Place Doctoral Fellowship focuses on an applied approach to research, assessment and intervention, family support, service coordination, community integration, community development and public policy. Fellowships aim to develop leaders in the fields of education, training, research and services for adults age 18 and older with autism and other neurodiversities.

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