Grant Supports Adults with Autism

Posted By on December 9, 2015

Photo credit to DreiseszunFirst Place
an Arizona-based nonprofit serving adults with autism and other special abilities, has received a $150,000 grant from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust.

The grant is for the development of comprehensive curriculum for independent living, career readiness and inter-personal skills for young adults with autism and other special needs. More than 50,000 U.S. children with autism are entering adulthood annually and more than 50% are disconnected from continuing education, employment and friends—a rate far greater than any other disability group, according to the 2015 National Autism Indicators Report released by the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute.

First Place and its sister nonprofit, the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC), have launched the First Place Transition Academy, a new educational and experiential initiative that brings an internationally recognized model to Phoenix. The Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust grant is funding the start-up and development of 32 individual courses specific to functional life skills, career development, social interactions and community integration.

“As the school bus stops coming, families and communities are faced with autism’s ‘perfect storm:’ an increasing population of special needs adults; dwindling government resources; individuals losing their skills; few housing options; and a lot of fear for what happens next,” said Denise D. Resnik, First Place president, board chair and founder.  Society is also faced with enormous costs, estimated to reach $1 trillion annually by 2025, according to UC Davis health economists in their projections of the cost of caring for all people with autism in the U.S.

“The grant from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust is helping us teach independent living skills, while our supportive community is opening doors for education, employment and residential options, allowing them to strengthen those skills as they learn to live more independently,” Resnik explained.

First Place Transition Academy students are enrolled at GateWay Community College and pursuing a non-credit certificate in Independent Living Skills and Career Development. This certificate is a first in the Maricopa Community College District. Students will receive their certificate after completing four semesters of coursework in advocacy, personal safety, conflict resolution, interpersonal relations, food and nutrition, transition and career education. SARRC’s Lead Instructor, Brad Herron-Valenzuela, provides class instruction as an adjunct professor.

During her lifetime Nina Mason Pulliam was a generous supporter of many community charitable organizations both in Phoenix and in Indianapolis. She was particularly sensitive to human needs, animal welfare and environmental issues. “Nina had a keen awareness of challenges that face our community and would take great pride in the outstanding work being done by organizations like First Place and SARRC,” said Carol Peden Schilling, Trust chair. “All of us at the Trust are honored to build on Nina’s legacy which clearly reflects her heart for philanthropy.”

The grant to First Place represents one of 21 awarded to nonprofit organizations in Arizona by the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust during the second of two grant cycles this year. Since the Trust began its grant making in 1998, it has awarded more than $252 million to nonprofit organizations in Arizona and Indiana.




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