Cerebral Palsy: Robert & Skye Anderson

Robert and Skye Anderson
twins with Cerebral Palsy

I’m writing this letter to tell you about my 8-year-old twins with Cerebral Palsy.

My son, Robert is in the 3rd grade at Lake Hamilton Elementary. He walks with polio crutches and he is somewhat delayed. He is such a happy child and fun to be around.

When we moved to Hot Springs from Texas he was 3 years old. He could only combat crawl and had very limited speech. We enrolled him into First Step School and within one year, they had him walking in a walker. He could say all sorts of things. By the second year he was using polio crutches.

When he graduated from First Step, he was able to push his twin sister’s wheelchair across the stage.

My daughter, Skye, is severely disabled. She is still enrolled in First Step in their school age program. She has come a long way. The road this far has not been easy but with the help of First Step teachers, therapists and nurses, my family has been helped many many times.

I recommend to families all the time to get their children into First Step…they will never be sorry they did.

-Debra and Robert Anderson

Christopher Downie’s Progess Impressive

Dear Pam:

At this time we wish to express to our sincere thanks and gratitude for the caring support Mrs. Thomas, her staff and their aids have shown our son Christopher over the last 14 years.

In his second year with the older school age group, he appears to enjoy school and seems to be happy in his new surroundings. He is always in a pleasant mood when we pick him up in the afternoons and he is ready to go each morning. It is also seen in the faces of the other students when we arrive at school each day.

Chris’ progress in spelling and speech has been especially impressive. He continues to improve and we are happy with his achievements. “Mr. Mike” has done a great job with him this year. We realize how difficult it can be at times, but when they are faced with the everyday stress of handling the special needs of the children, your staff seems to react in a professional, caring manner.

As parents, we feel that we are truly blessed to have an organization such as First Step to come to our aid and provide the professional personnel facilities that are needed for our special children.

Again, thank you and your fine staff for the job they are doing at First Step. I’m sure I speak for the other parents as well, when we say we appreciate you and your organization.

– George and Linda Downie

Richard Holden’s Life with Down Syndrome

Richard is 29 this year.

When we started this journey with him, we had no idea where we were going or how we would get there. We are so thankful that First Step School has been there from the early days of in-home counseling to this day where Richard is living in his own apartment, a dream come true for all of us.

Down Syndrome had a stigma attached to it in the 70s but in our Hot Springs Community there is a facility in place that helped to erase the stigma and replace it with a life well lived by a young man who doesn’t know the meaning of the word.

We are also thankful that not only was First Step there for us but it has been there and has changed lives in countless families in our community through the years and in many, many surrounding communities. There is encouragement, support and cooperation through each phase of growth for every family and client who receives services through this facility. We have been recipients of far more than we can ever repay.

We continuously let others know of the services available through this marvelous place of hope. When we came to First Step it was housed in a 20 by 40 foot building. My, how it and its services have grown and advanced and the number of people served through all these years is an awesome witness to what people with vision can accomplish.

We are indebted to the Board, the Administration and the employees who have given so unselfishly so that Richard could live and work and grow old in his own community.

Richard will live beyond us and do that competently because of what has happened is his life through what he has been given by First Step.

Thanks First Step from hearts that overflow with gratitude and appreciation and love. Thanks First Step for including our family in your vision and plans and hopes. You have provided help and the people through out Central Arkansas continue to come and will continue to come for generations unknown.

Our love and continuous prayers on your behalf.

– Dick and Wanda Holden

Special Needs for Seth Plummer

I’m writing this letter in regards to my son, Seth Plummer.

He is currently in preschool in the main building at First Step. The care he gets is awesome. The ladies who work in this class are very special people. They treat my son and the other children as though they are their own children. They provide a calm environment that helps me as a parent, feel secure throughout the day in knowing he’s okay.

When Seth was first enrolled in First Step, I think it was more of a scary experience for me than him. It took him a while to adapt but the staff was always very open and sensitive to his needs. Due to a birth defect and frequent hospitalizations, he was behind in several areas.

The staff evaluated him and developed an individualized care plan. Then they sat down and discussed this with me. It took some time, but now Seth has met several of his goals and continues everyday to work toward others.

As a parent that comes to First Step on a daily basis, I’ve not only noticed my son’s improvement, but have noticed other children’s improvement also. I would like to say “thank you” for allowing my son the opportunity to attend this school. I also would like to say “thank you” to all the staff that has had interaction with my child and has helped him towards his goals.

– Emma Plummer

Hollie Stephens Fight With Spina Bifida

Hollie Stephens
Spina Bifida

While pregnant with my daughter, Hollie, I found out she had Spina Bifida.

I started reading everything I could about it. I came to first Step and borrowed a book about Spina Bifida. I also inquired of services at First Step. I was told when she was ready to come home to call again and we would set up services for her.

Hollie was born prematurely at 29 weeks. She was med-flighted to Little Rock immediately. My doctor gave me a day to live due to the toll severe toxemia had taken on my body. Two days after she was born I was released from the hospital and went straight to Little Rock. At four days old Hollie was given a week to live. The doctors told us IF she survived she would be a complete vegetable. So I made the devastating decision to let her go. She was only on nose canal tubes but even these were removed and the doctors began letting us hold her.

I can still remember sitting up with her until 3 and 4 in the morning, holding her—thinking this would be the last time I would hold her. Not true.

Hollie is a fighter and had a lot of people who were standing behind her and praying for her. Hollie went through many hard times. She almost died a couple of different times. Through all these times, Hollie had love. She was held and talked to often. Hollie came home when she was 4 months and 10 days old.

Before coming home I went to First Step and filled out all the paperwork. It was set up for Speech to meet with her as I had a swallow study scheduled for her (she was on a silent aspirator so she had been given a G-tube to be able to go home) and I wanted to be sure I did everything possible to help her pass the study. She didn’t pass, but I didn’t lose hope. When first tested by First Step, Hollie could not pass anything. Now Hollie is leaping and bounding. She just started crawling. She can drink as long as it is mixed to nectar consistency. She has started eating table food and cheerio/fruit loops. She is such a joy.

First Step has helped us so much. They have shared my joys and also my frustrations. Some from there have come to see us when Hollie was put in the hospital. They always let us know that they care and take time to listen to us. I don’t know what I would have done this last year and a half without the training First Step has given me. They have offered me encouragement and extended their friendship.

From the therapist to the secretaries to the director—all stop to say hello and to ask how we are and to get to know US—not as case files, but as people. We all have children with special needs and one of the things we need the most is to know we are not alone. There are others that care.

Other families are also facing difficult situations. Knowing there is a program such as First Step has been wonderful. Hollie has come such a long way. Our whole family has come a long way. We have learned a lot and have drawn together more than ever.

– Carrie Stephens