By Denise Resnik
Matt and I love to go bowling. Others detect how much when we roll in with our own bowling balls, making us look much better than we are!
Last year, we connected with a social group for young adults with autism and special needs and find ourselves bowling most Saturday afternoons. With or without bumpers, bowling is a great equalizer. While some adopt more traditional bowling forms or use the aid of a ramp, others display creative streaks that make the experience even more fun and entertaining. There’s the two-handed side bowler, the basketball bowler who throws the ball like he’s shooting hoops, the Wii bowler who attempts to influence the ball through whole body gestures and, of course, the let-it-roll-from-between-your-legs ‘granny style’ bowler.
Style doesn’t really matter. There’s plenty of room for individuality. The fact is each ball arrives to its intended destination knocking down the pins, sometimes quite surprisingly. Smiles and high fives or frustrating sighs and words of encouragement often follow. Strikes command a special criss-cross high 10!
Consider other great equalizers like karaoke and karate, or a business like Matt’s SMILE Biscotti, which makes customers smile, ‘the shortest distance between two people’! Differences and diversity can connect us and add character to a place, culture or Saturday afternoon—and they should be celebrated.
As we proceed with plans for the spring groundbreaking of First Place-Phoenix, a new residential option for adults with autism and other ‘special abilities,’ we’ve been focused on celebrating neuro-diversity. To accommodate for differences and support people to live more independently, the property features supportive physical space like smart home technology and sensitive design through sound reducing appliances, soothing color palettes and durable materials. The property also includes a suite of supportive services, amenities and navigators for life skills, health/wellness and community connections.
Integrated in to the fabric of community and located within the heart of the urban area, First Place embraces life’s ‘equalizers’ at every turn. We have big plans for this initiative based on more than 15 years of research at SARRC and in collaboration with the Urban Land Institute and Arizona State University. To learn more, check out this brief film:
We also celebrate our participation in the Coalition for Community Choice, a national grassroots alliance of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, their families and friends, disability rights advocates, professionals, educators, and housing and service providers which aims to increase options for, and decrease barriers to housing and employment choices.
Together we advocate for more options that are person-centered and based on individually defined preferred settings, support needs and meaningful life goals. We need more options so individuals and their families have more choices for what works best for them.
With Lucky Strike bowling ally just a few light rail stops away from First Place, I anticipate Matt will be putting his bowling ball to more frequent use in the years ahead. Joined by more friends, who are likely more fun, I hope he’ll will still want me to play on occasion too!
Denise is the founder and president of the marketing and communications firm, DRA Strategic Communications. She also serves as a member of the Arizona Community Foundation Board of Directors and member of the Arizona Advisory Board of BBVA Compass.
The mother of a 24-year-old son with autism, Denise is the founder, president and board chair of First Place AZ (www.firstplaceaz.org), a nonprofit dedicated to developing new, innovative housing options for adults with autism and other ‘special abilities,’ and the co-founder and board member emeritus of the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC, www.autismcenter.org), an internationally recognized nonprofit organization dedicated to autism research, education and community outreach and the support of individuals with autism and their families throughout their lifetimes.
Other nonprofit leadership includes serving as a member of the Autism Speaks Housing Committee, Advancing Futures for Adults with Autism (AFAA) Leadership Council, National Association of Residential Providers for Adults with Autism (NARPAA) and the National Autism Transition Research Network Advisory Panel. Denise also served as a federally appointed member of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) of the National Institutes of Health.