By Denise Resnik
Our son celebrates his 25th birthday June 3, representing another time of great reflection on the progress he’s made, the enormous steps he still needs to take and the complexity of adult life with autism.
For nearly two decades of his life, I’ve been researching residential properties and programs across the U.S, involving families and individuals with autism in focus groups and traveling in search of promising practices. Plans for First Place have been informed by that effort and are now materializing, in partnership with SARRC and 70 collaborators. But my personal priorities as Matt’s mom would fall short if I didn’t look beyond design goals and guidelines.
So stepping outside of my role as leader, planner, facilitator, advocate and community champion, I penned something about First Place and Matt’s next home years ago at the urging of a dear friend and mentor. Our family must be sure Matt’s new home will be as comfortable, safe and joyful as our family home. Not an easy goal, but one we continue striving for.
Written from a mother’s heart, pondering his first home away from our family home, here’s what I believe Matt wants and says through his words unspoken.
There’s No Place Like Home
- Home is a safe, nurturing place, where I can rest, replenish and recharge.
- Home is a place to hang out with my friends and family, where I can entertain and be entertained.
- Home is a place that grounds me and connects me to my community, where I work, learn, recreate….
- Home is a beautiful place where I can experiment, learn and grow.
- Home is a place where I have choices over what to wear, what to eat or what to do with my time.
- Home is a place filled with creature comforts — my bed, pillow, stuffed animals, videos, DVDs, books–and all my cherished stuff!
- Home is a nurturing place that makes me feel better when I’m sick, grounds me when I’m well and brings forward the warm memories of fun times and people I love the most.
- Home is a place I take care of so it can take care of me; it requires I do my chores, which give me a great sense of accomplishment.
- Home is a place that makes me strong; it’s where I collect my thoughts, rest my head and dream about the possibilities.
- Home is a powerful, very special place.
- Home is where I can be the same and different.
- Home is a place where I can do my own thing; where my privacy is protected, where I keep my secrets and where I can just be me without being scored.
- Home is where I can listen to my favorite music, sing out loud, watch my favorite TV shows or DVDs, play Wii or do nothing at all.
- Home is a place I can cook a meal just the way I like it.
- Home protects me, fortifies me and comforts me.
- Home is a place where I want to live–and where I want to die.
- Home is a place where I feel good and look good no matter what I’m wearing.
- Home is a place that has rules so others can enjoy their privacy and be comfortable–and I can too.
- Home is a place that makes me happy; it’s where I find comfort when I’m sad.
- Home is where I can speak any language and be understood.
- Home is where I’m not afraid of the dark.
- Home is defined by what I see, hear and smell and how that makes me feel.
- Home is a place where I can hide under the covers and not have to worry about being found.
- Home is a place where I can dream with or without a pillow.
- Home is my most sacred space and place.
Matthew, we wish you a very happy birthday, good health and many SMILE’s in the years ahead and in your new home at First Place-Phoenix, which breaks ground late 2016.
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.