About First Step
All of our lives are affected to some degree by loved ones who have disabilities or have some form of mental illness. First Step is here to help improve the quality of life in the community by helping those with developmental disabilities become more independent.
From early detection in children to residential programs for adults, our mission is to provide treatment services, training and innovative solutions to enrich the lives of those at every age and every level of developmental disabilities and delays.
What challenges do you face? Take the first step toward equipping and empowering yourself and others in your family to make good decisions while navigating your way through the challenges that have come your way.
We would love to talk with you in person…to assess your needs, help you explore your options, and offer you one-on-one professional guidance.
Together, we can map out a strategy to help your child or loved one with developmental disabilities live a meaningful, high-quality life.
First Step Mission
“The Mission of First Step, Inc. is to promote integration and independence of all people with disabilities.”
Approved by the Board of Directors, First Step, Inc. April 20, 1998
Who We Are
The professional staff of First Step includes compassionate people with a number of talents and abilities and a variety of educational backgrounds. We are dedicated to join forces with you and your physician to design a personalized, effective plan of action that will be the best fit for your child or loved one who has developmental disabilities.
All of our therapists maintain current Arkansas licensing in his or her particular discipline. Developmental treatment services for children are overseen by development treatment coordinators who are certified. Many of our instructors (paraprofessionals) have their CDA (Child Development Associate) degree, and all are encouraged to obtain it.
We also have on staff numerous registered nurses and master’s-level counselors. Our support personnel—including van drivers, escorts, etc.—are trained to the highest level necessary to perform their particular jobs with excellence.
We encourage all employees to continue their education in their field of service, and we offer financial help for those who do. Each staff member is required to be certified in first aid and CPR.
Pam Bland has served as our executive director since 1981. Many of the First Step staff have been with the organization 20 years or more. First Step centers in Hot Springs, Malvern, Fordyce, Glenwood, Sparkman, Mt. Ida, and Hamburg serve 27 Arkansas counties. Transportation is provided to those who need it.
First Step History
First Step began in Hot Springs, Arkansas, in 1958 with a group of parents, civic leaders, and health professionals who recognized the need for services within the local community for individuals with special needs. Their passion and dedication first brought help to children with developmental disabilities. Beginning with only 7 students, the services soon reached beyond the borders of Hot Springs and eventually expanded to include services for adults as well as children.
Today, First Step aims to reach children and adults with developmental delays and disabilities by offering treatment, therapies, and services to help each individual reach his or her full potential.
In 1980 First Step was one of the first providers in Arkansas to offer early intervention for infants through a special grant program. When Pam Bland came on board as executive director in 1981, she made it a permanent service offered by First Step. Today, this program is offered nationwide.
Serving approximately 1700 consumers (clients) in 27 Arkansas counties, First Step has been a member agency of the United Way of Garland County for more than 40 years.