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First Place Phoenix: Special needs housing complex offers independence, fulfillment

Posted at 7:13 PM, Oct 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-30 01:26:24-04

Thousands of children are diagnosed with autism every year, and one Valley woman is proving there's hope for those impacted by it.

Denise Resnik is the founder of First Place Phoenix, apartment-style housing for those with special needs.

For Resnik, its completion was a longtime dream. Her son, Matt, was diagnosed with autism 25 years ago. She said she was devastated when doctors told her he would be best in an institution.

"For anyone to take away a parent's hopes and dreams for our kids or son, it wasn't right," Resnik said. "It wasn't fair."

So Resnik got to work, surrounding herself with others impacted by autism. She co-founded the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center in 1997 and had spent thousands of hours researching concerns when it comes to residential living.

Her latest accomplishment is First Place. The rooms all have features that make residents feel safe while allowing them to gain independence and make new friends.

"(It's) more of a homey feel and not an institutional feel," Resnik said.

It's also part of a big milestone in her family, as Matt prepares to move in next month. 

"It's going to take time and patience," Resnik said. "Matt will continue to teach us what we need to do to make him learn how to live more independently."

Resnik said the goal is for people with autism to develop a lifestyle that's meaningful, productive and fulfilling.

"Sometimes what you see is not what you get," Resnik said. "There's a lot of substance there, and we experience that every day with Matt."

To learn more about First Place, click here.