About First Step Arkansas

“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

Take the First Step Towards Empowerment

As a trusted provider of comprehensive disability services, we are dedicated to fostering growth, independence, and community inclusion for individuals with developmental delays, disabilities, and special needs. First Step welcomes you to a supportive community that values empowerment and high-quality life for all.

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Where Compassion Meets Commitment

Our story began in 1958, sown from a seed of hope and the belief that every individual deserves the chance to lead an independent, fulfilling life. In the heartland of Garland County, First Step started its journey, serving a modest group of children and adults with developmental disabilities.

Over the years, our organization has blossomed, extending its reach to 27 counties throughout Arkansas. Yet, the essence of First Step remains unchanged: to enrich lives by promoting integration and independence for people with disabilities.

This core mission guides our every step and illuminates our path forward.

Upholding Standards, Transforming Lives

Growth, resilience, and an unwavering commitment to excellence have always been our main goals. In March 2023, we celebrated a milestone, being issued a Three-Year CARF (Commission on Accreditation and Rehabilitation Facilities) Accreditation – the highest level of accreditation that can be awarded to a rehabilitation program. This marks our 4th cycle of three-year accreditations which demonstrates that  excellence has been a long-standing tradition for First Step. 

This acknowledgment underpins our steadfast dedication to providing exceptional, evidence-based care to our patients by strictly adhering to nationally and internationally recognized standards of quality and patient care.

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Join us at First Step, where we work together toward a future of growth, independence, and community inclusion. Here, we are not just a service provider; we are your partner, guide, and steadfast support in this journey.

Journey through Time: First Step’s Legacy of Change

Step into our past as we embark on a journey of resilience, dedication, and commitment to change.

1958, Hot Springs, AR: A group of passionate parents, civic leaders, and health professionals identified a gap in disability services within the local community. They recognized that individuals with special needs deserved targeted support and resources to lead fulfilling lives in their home communities. Driven by this vision, First Step was born. We began with a humble group of seven students, offering educational services to children with developmental disabilities.

Expanding Our Reach: Our mission and commitment didn’t stop at Hot Springs’ borders. We broadened our horizons, expanding our services to include adults and reaching the wider community. Over the years, we have made our mark in the disability services sector, becoming a trusted partner for countless individuals and families across Arkansas.

1980 – Pioneering Early Intervention: We have always been at the forefront of innovation in special needs education. In 1980, First Step became one of the first providers in Arkansas to offer early intervention services for infants. Recognizing the critical impact of early intervention on the lives of children with developmental delays and disabilities, we made this a permanent service.

1980-1990 – Meeting the Needs: We added day programs for children and adults across several locations to further meet the needs of our clients and their families.  Our expanded services included the addition of Speech-Language, Physical, and Occupational Therapy.

Present Day – A Legacy of Impact: Today, First Step stands as a beacon of hope and support for individuals with special needs and their families. We serve approximately 1,900 consumers across 27 Arkansas counties. We continue to innovate, offering a multitude of services ranging from therapeutic interventions to community inclusion programs.

As we reflect on our journey, we’re proud of our rich history and the milestones we’ve achieved. Yet, we remain firmly focused on the road ahead, committed to our mission of empowering individuals with disabilities to lead independent, fulfilling lives.

We believe in the potential of every person we serve and will continue to take the necessary steps to ensure they have every opportunity to shine.

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The People Behind Our Mission

At First Step, we believe that our team is our heartbeat, the driving force behind our mission. Every individual in our organization is passionately committed to delivering the highest standard in disability services, special needs education, and fostering community inclusion.

Our board of directors and foundation board members consist of highly dedicated professionals, family members, and clients, each bringing a unique set of skills and experiences to the table. Their collective commitment to our mission enables us to deliver quality services.

From strategizing and decision-making to ensuring operational excellence, they tirelessly work to make a positive impact on the lives of the individuals we serve and their families. They understand the challenges our clients face and are dedicated to providing the resources, support, and care needed to promote independence and integration.

Get to know the faces behind First Step. Click to learn more about our incredible team who makes our mission possible.

Guiding Principles that Inspire Us

We’re more than an organization; we’re a community united by our shared values, deeply woven into the very fabric of our mission and operations. These values are not just written words but principles lived out each day through our actions.

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Commitment to Excellence

This is more than a standard; it’s our promise. We continually strive for the highest standards in all our operations. Our unwavering commitment ensures that we consistently provide top-tier, innovative services for the individuals we serve, their families, and the communities we operate in.

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More than just an ideal, empowerment is a mission that fuels every program we offer. We passionately believe in the power of potential and work diligently to equip individuals with disabilities and their families with the tools, resources, and confidence they need to lead fulfilling, independent lives.

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Inclusion and Respect

We fervently advocate for a world where everyone, regardless of their abilities, is valued, respected, and included. Our advocacy extends beyond our internal environment to our community inclusion initiatives, promoting an inclusive environment where everyone feels welcomed, accepted, and has an equal chance to contribute and participate.

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We are consistently on the lookout for innovative ways to enhance our services and programs. By embracing bold, forward-thinking initiatives and pushing boundaries, we continually improve outcomes for the individuals we serve, showing that innovation indeed fosters transformation.

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Recognizing the power of teamwork, collaboration is central to our operations. We join forces with families, community partners, and other organizations to maximize positive outcomes. This collaborative spirit amplifies our impact, helping us create a more inclusive world where everyone, regardless of their abilities, is valued, included, and empowered.

Together, these core principles form the backbone of First Step, guiding our decisions and inspiring us to create positive, impactful change every day.