Newsletter – April 2022

“In A Different Key” Back in Phoenix

The extraordinary documentary about a mother’s search for the first person diagnosed with autism—now an 88-year-old man living in rural Mississippi—continues its amazing, enlightening journey across the country. “In A Different Key” has been opening minds and hearts since its debut in Month 2021. A national tour began right here in Phoenix at the 10th 2021 Global Leadership Institute symposium last fall.

The film returns to the Valley Sunday, May 15, with a special free screening event made possible with funding by the Flinn Foundation and local cosponsors Arizona for Better Medicaid, Cox Communications, First Place Global Leadership Institute, Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center and UnitedHealthcare Community Plan. We’re also welcoming various community members and their “+Ones,” along with local first responders, educators, and residents and their families.

This special screening will be followed by a Q&A with co-producers and award-winning journalists Caren Zucker and John Donvan, along with autism expert Dr. Peter Gerhardt, on hand to meet and talk with the audience. We hope you’ll join us!

New Autism Podcast

Starting this month, watch for the weekly podcast “Autism’s First Child” on (running for six weeks) about Donald Triplett, the compelling subject of “In A Different Key.”

Making More Waves During April’s Autism Acceptance Month

Thanks to the Make Waves Family Foundation, First Place AZ raised more than $75,000 in response to a very generous triple-match challenge in recognition of Autism Acceptance Month. Funds will go toward various health and wellness initiatives, including our 360 Health & Wellness® curriculum. Huge thanks to the Roth family—and you, our donors—for all the ways you support us as we continue moving forward in our mission to create supportive, sustainable communities where adults with autism and other neurodiversities live and thrive with pride, purpose and endless possibilities!

360 Health & Wellness® Summer Cohort Registration Open

Join us to build your Peace of Mind Portfolio™ during the summer cohort of First Place’s 360 Health & Wellness curriculum starting in May and running through August. The cohort includes courses designed for individuals with autism and other neurodiversities (Staying Healthy) and their families/caregivers (Supporting Independence). Learn more and register here for this insightful and practical program that is gaining fast in popularity after its 2021 debut.  

LNCS Back in May

After a successful and well-attended March session, LNCS is back next month! During the May LNCS (Lifelong Networks for Communities of Support) session titled “Supporting Safe and Healthy Relationships” and presented via Zoom by national autism expert Peter Gerhardt, EdD, family members will learn key strategies for helping their loved ones develop healthy personal and professional relationships. Additional discussion will focus on identifying social outlets for individuals with autism and other neurodiversities. The talk will conclude with a Q&A session for participants. Reserve your spot here!

Yellow Brick Road Leads to First Place–Phoenix

On a very special Saturday evening this month, eight smart and courageous First Place–Phoenix residents and Transition Academy students full of heart made their theatrical debut in a performance of “The Wizard of Oz” at Phoenix Center for the Arts, thanks to a Lifelong Arts Engagement Grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts. Many proud family members, friends and supportive community members were in the audience to celebrate the actors’ hard work. Special thanks to ASU master’s student Jacob Buttry and the ASU Design and Arts Corps for putting together this sold-out show, including leading our talented actors in countless rehearsals in support of self-confidence and possible stage careers! 

Read All About It…

A couple of heartfelt blogs share memories and insights for SARRC’s 25th Anniversary. To mark the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center’s 25th anniversary, co-founder and First Place AZ founder and president/CEO Denise shared a special blog to mark the occasion with personal reflections, favorite memories and insights on progress made over the last quarter century. SARRC co-founder Dr.Raun Melmed also shared a blog reflecting on advancements, progress and lessons learned.

Here’s an insightful Q&A with Denise recently published on, an online platform with a mission “to create a space for artists, creatives and entrepreneurs to be able to learn from their peers through the magic and power of storytelling.”

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