Hard Work Pays Off

Hard Work Pays Off

Rolling into work on his bicycle, Chian Gibson is ahead of schedule. He began work at Weldon’s Meat Market in Hot Springs in June 2018. The owner, Tom Starnes, stated, “Chian is very punctual. You don’t have to worry about him being here. For someone riding a bike, that’s saying something.”

Experiencing just a few learning curves, Chian is becoming a fine cook. Clint, his co-worker, said “He’s gone from hardly knowing anything to a really good worker. He reads recipes now. He comes in with a great attitude. He gets his groove going and is one of the faster workers.”

Tom said “He’s opened up. He was this quiet, little meek person, didn’t say anything. Now he’ll cut up and carry on. He’s quicker. He’s so willing to learn. Perfect? No, but he’s getting there.”

Weldon’s also offers up a variety of prepared casseroles and desserts. Chian prepares a number of those dishes including chicken spaghetti, his favorite. Tom said that’s his specialty. “He can make chicken spaghetti pretty awesome.” Chian keeps up with stock, needed ingredients grocery list, keeps a sanitary workspace and has learned to operate and reload the ticket machine.

Besides enjoying the work, Chian loves and is proud of being able to pay his bills on time and save some money. Keep up the good work, Chian. We like being able to brag on you!



Success Doesn’t Come Easy

Success Doesn’t Come Easy

From Employee of the Quarter to Assistant Manager, Larysha Mercer continues to prove her worth at Stage department store in Malvern, Arkansas. When Angel Overton became the new Store Manager, Larysha was in supervisor training. The District Manager saw it only a formality to move Larysha to Assistant Manager then. Angel stated, “She’s my right hand woman. By the time she got her code for alarms, she was ready.”

Asked about her new role, Larysha said, “What I always say – I love it! It’s not easy, but I like it. I enjoy it.” Larysha said the biggest issues are “having to resolve situations and telling people what to do and make sure they are doing it. Angel told me ‘You gotta learn to put your foot down. It’s not a popularity contest, not always going to like you’.”

Working with banking, deposits, the safe, payroll, scheduling, training, correspondence, solving problems and troubleshooting, Larysha has met the mark. Angel reported, “I mean she’s been a great success story. She’s had some difficult things to overcome to get where she’s at, but she’s done a great job. I said she would be good for the part and she is. She’s my support system. If I were allowed to give her more hours, she’d want them.”



Parent Testimonial

A Parent Shares~

Our son, Osvaldo, has been receiving services at First Step, Inc. since February 15, 2008. He is eleven years old now. His services have included day habilitation (pre-school), occupational, speech, and physical therapies and currently, school-based developmental treatment services. Osvaldo was born prematurely only weighing 3 pounds, 10 ounces at birth. His medical history is significant for RSV and ear infections. At the age of 3 months, he would make sounds and was weaned from the breast at 6 months of age. Due to complex medical reasons, he receives all of his meals via a feeding tube.

We would recommend First Step because it is a very good school for Osvaldo, and has access to the best resources available to help all children with disabilities. All of the staff are proactive in their treatment and provide everything necessary to meet the diverse developmental needs of the children. Also, every decision concerning Osvaldo’s treatment has been conveyed to us and meetings are held to discuss the best solutions.

We want to thank all of Osvaldo’s teachers, past and present, for their time and dedication to taking care of our son and for consulting with us on anything involving him. We want to thank his therapists for dedicating their patience to our son. Finally, we want to thank Ms. Alicia, First Step’s interpreter, for always being there for our son and us.


Osvaldo’s parents

Spanish Verison

Meet Raylan

Meet Raylan~

     Raylan is a courageous four-year-old boy who has been receiving Developmental Treatment services at First Step close to a year now. Upon entering our program, Raylan scores showed significant developmental delays across all areas of development. Raylan suffers from anxiety attacks, and does not separate easily, and needs to be calmed down using calming techniques such as a calm voice, hugs, and accommodations in his environment. Raylan is in a classroom that is warm and welcoming. He has built rapport with the environment and can feel safe which has allowed him to learn. We have used social stories to help him know what to expect from the environment and changes to his daily schedule like when his teacher will be out for the day. We also have provided picture schedules to help him transition from center to center. He has allowed for peers to assist him in doing activities and he also now is volunteering some to help others. With the multi-team approach from parents, teachers, and therapists Raylan has improved and is happy to come to school most days and has built peer relationships.

~Casey Gardner, Developmental Treatment Teacher, DT6A


Stop DHS “One Therapy” Rule

Children with Developmental Disabilities:

Don’t Leave Us Out

The DHS “One Therapy” rule that will cut critical services for 3,300 Arkansas children with Developmental Disabilities. Under the proposed rule, children who do not receive therapy (OT, PT, or SP), will no longer be able to receive developmental day treatment. Contact the Governor’s office today and tell them to …save these programs for our children! Contact: (501) 682-2345.

For more information, please visit

Save My Services





A Teacher Shares

A Teacher Shares

Recently, I was visiting with a parent about her child being ready to transfer to an older classroom. I was remarking about how well she had accomplished toilet training and how her language had just started flourishing. Mom, Crystal, told me that Serenity has really blossomed at First Step. Crystal said, “Serenity has made really excellent progress at First Step. When she started, she couldn’t walk and was hardly talking.” Serenity couldn’t say any distinguishable words and cried often. Transition times were the most difficult. Instructors, coordinators, and therapists partnered with her family to encourage Serenity in her therapies and push her to reach important developmental milestones. They have all had a hand in helping Serenity make a successful journey from room to room and accomplishment to accomplishment over the years.

Today, Serenity is able to feed and help dress herself. She is able to communicate her needs and she is able to run and play with friends. She always has a smile and loves to listen to stories. However, with all her progress achieved, Serenity continues to need developmental and therapy services to progress her developmental skills further so that she will be ready to go to kindergarten in a few years with fewer supports than she would have without developmental services. With continued developmental services, Serenity will be ready to transition to kindergarten—independent and ready to learn all her school has to offer.

     ~Rhonda Pettit, DT4 Teacher in Fordyce


A Grandmother Writes

A Grandmother writes…

Tears spring to my eyes when I think of how much progress Avery has made, since entering First Step. She started at First Step after she was diagnosed with autism at three years old. Her problems included sensory issues, communication difficulties, and behavior problems.

   In the last two years, after very caring teachers, occupational therapy three times a week, speech therapy three times a week combined with high expectations, she has blossomed. She now smiles, laughs, greets everyone with a “Hi,” and sings happily through most of her day. But, the best part is that she is happy! First Step began by teaching her to make better eye contact, speak to everyone, and use walking feet.

   Her first classroom had to deal with some manipulative behaviors. Those were overcome with consistency and time. She thrived in a positive and nurturing environment at the school. Everyone seemed to know and speak to her. That provided her a way to practice through the consistent role modeling.

     The classroom she moved up to provided her with an environment more like kindergarten. She is required to sit at a table and circle time, which will provide practice for next year.

     I could write a page about each teacher she has encountered. First of all, they go above and beyond in every way. A big thank you to Ms. Tess, Ms. Julie, Ms. Paula, Ms. Tiffany, Ms. Amber and so many others from the directors to excellent class assistants. Some of her teachers have come to doctor appointments, gymnastics and her birthday party. They are always professional, friendly, amazing, and upbeat, but most of all they guide her to make good choices. This has offered opportunities for Avery to be successful, self-confident and happy.          

                                               ~Sheryl Morris, Avery’s Grandmother



First Step Home Town Hero

Exciting Announcement~

     First Step, Inc. has been selected as The Waters Hotel November Home Town Hero. For the entire month of November, The Avenue Restaurant, located inside the beautiful hotel, will graciously donate 10% of the food sales when a customer tells their wait staff that they are dining for their Home Town Hero.  The Avenue’s menu offers a wide variety of unique plates prepared specially by Chef Casey Copeland, who brings a Southern Artisan Cuisine style of cooking to downtown Hot Springs. For more information about The Water’s Hotel/Avenue Restaurant, visit their website