New Life Chapters Tie Together Bingo, Besties and The Beatles

This month marks the two-year anniversary of the First Place–Phoenix groundbreaking. I’m happy to report that our culture of inclusion and learning is alive and well.

We are enjoying the daily comings and goings of residents, including First Place Transition Academy participants, as they head off to work, study, volunteer, shop or simply to recreate. Seasonal highlights include everything from visits to the Desert Botanical Garden, ZooLights and the Musical Instrument Museum to shows like Elf the Musical, Winnie the Pooh and Swan Lake—with sunny hikes, holiday choirs and festivals in between.

Within First Place, shared experiences and collective memories are building our culture and an authentic and active community life. Consider these weekly happenings: Sunday brunch, Taco Tuesday, Thirsty Thursday, bingo night (called in four languages by one of our residents) and barbecues at Joey’s Grill. And consider friendships being created naturally and nurtured daily!

On a very personal note, our 27-year-old son Matt has embarked on his journey of transition and taken us right along with him as he teaches us daily how best to support him. Together with First Place staff, private therapists and SARRC’s parent training, we are helping to shape his new routines and identify where he needs assistance.

Consider how we’re progressing together toward Matt’s more independent life at First Place:

  • Using Alexa to fill his home with music, help him prepare his weekly shopping list and check the weather forecast so he can choose the right clothes.
  • Loading the dishwasher correctly by observing and practicing.
  • Determining clean from dirty laundry. (After one wearing, he throws it in the laundry basket—probably the best approach!)
  • Reinforcing daily crumb control and offering guidance with weekly apartment cleanings.
  • Using the timer on his watch to make sure he’s brushing his teeth for a full minute. (His weekly calendar reminds him to replace his toothbrush since he mashes the bristles.)
  • Choosing comfortable socks and shoes (and enjoying new, stretchy no-tie laces!).
  • Peeling, coring and cutting apple slices for his Scrabble-game snacks. (Learning to tell a good apple from a rotten one, too…).
  • Working on avoiding clipping his sideburns when using an electric shaver; still practicing using a razor and shaving cream.

Still a challenge: interpreting Matt’s tricky “yes” and “no” answers. When asked whether he brushed his teeth or took his medicine, he may answer no because he hears the question as a repeated request and doesn’t want to repeat the task if he’s already completed it. First Place support specialists are helping us explore other ways to frame questions. 

Matt is enjoying Bingo night, yoga, bowling and all kinds of community activities, including a recent Suns game with fellow residents. When he hosts dinner parties for neighbors, chicken drumettes, chips, cookies and apples are his go-to menu items, along with UNO, Scrabble, his favorite songs (The Beatles tunes included) and those of his guests.

Together with like-minded parent, grandparents, passionate pioneers and our uniquely supportive community, we are expanding Matt’s sphere of opportunity and independence, and helping him—and us—embark on a major new life chapter. Thank you to each and every supporter of First Place for believing and trusting in us—and giving us all greater peace of mind this holiday season and throughout the coming years.   

Matt’s Mom

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