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Have YOU Remembered First Step in Your Estate Plans?

A Planned Gift is a term that applies to several types of gifts that are arranged now and benefits First Step later. When making our estate plans, we all want to provide for our families. By arranging a planned gift now, you may be able to create more opportunities for your family and give to First Step in the process.

Planned giving can reduce taxes on your income and estate, resulting in a larger gift. Many planned gifts bring additional advantages, such as steady, secure income for you. Planned gifts can include cash, securities, retirement plan assets, real estate or life insurance proceeds, and more. The following are examples of a planned gift:

  • Bequests
  • Charitable Gift Annuities
  • Gifts of Retirement Plan Assets
  • Charitable Remainder Trusts
  • Tax-free IRA Transfers
  • Gifts of Real Estate
  • Gifts of Securities
  • Gifts of Life Insurance
  • Charitable Lead Trusts

The First Step Development staff will meet with you to discuss your planned gift. Whether your interest is in providing therapy programs for children, art programs for adults, or preparing a child to enter the world of education, our staff will work with you to insure that your gift will be applied to your area of interest. Planned gifts to First Step can support one or all of our programs and services.

Consult with your attorney and tax adviser to determine how various options might affect your personal tax and estate-planning objectives. If you’ve already included First Step in your estate plan, contact us to ensure that your gift is properly recognized and that your intentions are carried out.

Learn More

To learn more or to setup planned giving, contact Nancy Baxter, Director of Development, at (501) 620-6615.


Helpful Resources

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Between 7 and 12 Million American youth suffer from mental, behavioral, or developmental disorders at any given time. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry is the leading national professional medical association dedicated to treating and improving the quality of life for children, adolescents, and families affected by these disorders.

Arkansas Department of Education
Creating a Smart Arkansas is what the Arkansas Department of Education is all about. How do we do this? By supporting students, teachers and school administrators through top-notch curriculum development and ongoing, research-based learning opportunities for educators, the state has already witnessed unprecedented gains in educational attainment of students.

Arkansas Department of Human Services
Engaging in statewide planning that ensures optimal and innovative growth of the Arkansas service system to meet the needs of persons with developmental disabilities and to assist such persons to achieve independence, productivity, and integration into the community.

Arkansas Disability Coalition
In conjunction with Arkansas Support Network in Bentonville, the Arkansas Disability Coalition works with parents who have children ages 0-26 with special education needs. Staff members across the state teach parents about their rights under IDEA how to develop and monitor effective educational plans for their children. The project helps parents network and organize support groups in their communities.

Arkansas Medicaid
A collection of tools for individuals and organizations that provide health care services to Arkansas Medicaid beneficiaries.

Arkansas State Resources Information
The offices listed on NICHCY state sheets are primarily state-level offices. Even if an office is not close to your home, they can usually put you in touch with resources in your community, as well as provide you with information and assistance about disability issues in your state.

Autism Society of America
The Autism Society is the nation’s leading grassroots autism organization which exists to improve the lives of all affected by autism. We do this by increasing public awareness about the day-to-day issues faced by people on the spectrum, advocating for appropriate services for individuals across the lifespan, and providing the latest information regarding treatment, education, research and advocacy. Click here to find A Guide to Keeping Your Autistic Kids Safe.

About Cerebral Palsy
The mission at is to provide you with the most comprehensive resource and compassionate voice for all things related to caring for a child with Cerebral Palsy, Erb’s Palsy, and other neurological injuries. Go to Cerebral Palsy Guide for additional information.

College Resources for Students with Disabilities
Prospective college students with disabilities will find that many campuses are equipped with offices and services that address accessibility, accommodation, and assistive technology for a diverse range of needs.

Information on Failure to Thrive
Most babies double their birth weight by 4 months and triple it by age one.  But kids with failure to thrive often don’t meet those milestones. Sometimes, a child who starts out “plump” and who shows signs of growing well can begin to fall off in weight gain. After a while, linear (height) growth may slow as well.

National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is dedicated to eliminating birth defects caused by alcohol consumption during pregnancy and to improving the quality of life for those affected individuals and families.

National Down Syndrome Society
The mission of the National Down Syndrome Society is to be the national advocate for the value, acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome.  The National Down Syndrome Society envisions a world in which all people with Down syndrome have the opportunity to enhance their quality of life, realize their life aspirations, and become valued members of welcoming communities.

National Park Medical Center – Hot Springs
As a 166-bed full-service hospital, NPMC provides a comprehensive range of medical services and high quality care. We are a forward thinking, innovative hospital where trust, teamwork and technology come together to make a positive difference in the health of our community and region. Our Joint Commission accreditation powerfully demonstrates our commitment to meet the highest national standards for quality and safety.

The Spina Bifida Association
The Spina Bifida Association (SBA) serves adults and children who live with the challenges of Spina Bifida.  Since 1973, SBA has been the only national voluntary health agency solely dedicated to enhancing the lives of those with Spina Bifida and those whose lives are touched by this challenging birth defect.  Its tools are education, advocacy, research, and service.

St. Joseph’s Mercy Health Center – Hot Springs
Since 1888, St. Joseph’s Mercy Health System has served the healthcare needs of Hot Springs, Arkansas and surrounding communities.

Dawson Education Services Cooperative
Dawson Education’s mission is to provide service to member districts beyond that which they could provide for themselves.  Efforts are focused on promoting a cooperative attitude among member districts so as to address their identified needs.  These cooperative efforts facilitate an efficient and economical delivery of services and directly impact the education opportunities available to the students of participating districts.

American Association on Mental Retardation
Also known as the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities,  AAIDD promotes progressive policies, sound research, effective practices and universal human rights for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Administration on Developmental Disabilities
The Administration on Developmental Disabilities ensures that individuals with developmental disabilities and their families participate in the design of and have access to culturally competent services, supports, and other assistance and opportunities that promotes independence, productivity, and integration and inclusion into the community.

Developmental Treatment Services for Young Children

Developmental Treatment Services at First Step

Whether it’s developmental delays or any of a number of other developmental concerns, the Developmental Treatment Services program at First Step helps families find the right answers for their children. Upon referral from your child’s physician, our staff can evaluate your child’s skills and strengths to help determine the best path for his or her future.

The First Step Developmental Treatment Services for Children focuses on getting your preschooler ready for school. We teach your child basic skills and offer the special attention essential for paving the way to a successful venture into the public school setting.

Upon the referral of your child’s physician, our staff will evaluate your child’s skills and strengths, identify goals and needs, and then chart a fun and exciting course toward success.

We use creative strategies and professional expertise to work alongside each child, encouraging him or her to develop a sense of pride and accomplishment—something that sometimes can be difficult for children with developmental delays to reach on their own.

At First Step, there are no failures or disappointments. It’s just your child, working hard to become his or her best.

[box type=”arrow” top=”” bottom=””]For more information, contact the First Step location closest to where you live or our main office in Hot Springs at (501) 624.6468.[/box]
Help for Our Kids

Are you aware that service such as the day programs, residential programs, occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, early intervention, and home and community based waiver services for Arkansans with Developmental Disabilities are in danger of being cut in the federal budget fight?  Congress is considering large cuts to Medicaid which funds these services.

70,277 full-time jobs in Arkansas are attributable to the Medicaid program, which is equal to 6% of all employment in the state.

Medicaid provides health insurance to 26 percent of Arkansans (750,000 people) with an annual budget of $3.14 billion.

Medicaid is a vital safety net for 120,200 children and adults with disabilities, such as Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, intellectual disabilities, and autism.

Medicaid is an important economic driver in Arkansas – approximately $5.9 billion is generated as a result of direct Medicaid (state and federal) spending of $3.7 billion in Arkansas.

Every federal Medicaid dollar that flows into a state stimulates business activity and generates jobs.  In Arkansas, every federal dollar spent on Medicaid has an economic impact of $6.31.

So, the loss of the “economic multiplier effect” that states would experience as a direct result of federal Medicaid cuts would be large and much greater than the amount of the dollar cuts themselves.

For every 5% (12% is being proposed) that is cut from the Medicaid budget, it means about $242 million in lost economic activity for Arkansas and a loss of 2,400 jobs.

Please send an email or make a call to the President (White House), our Senators, and our Congressmen. At this minute, negotiations in Washington are threatening 46 years of success and positive change in the lives of Individuals with Disabilities – and their families!  We have provided the contact information below for you convenience.  Tell your elected officials to lobby The White House and Congress for protection for our intellectually disabled!  Community Services for these individuals are the least expensive systems and morally the right thing to do.

Ask for their help in supporting the most vulnerable members in our society.  Explain that community funded Medicaid stops costly institutionalization, puts consumers with disabilities and their families into jobs, and protects community in each town in America.

We are counting on each of you.  Send a link to this page to your friends and family.  Put it on your Face Book page.  Washington MUST hear your voice!!!


Pam Bland, Executive Director
First Step, Inc.



President Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500


U.S. Senator John Boozman
320 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone:  (202) 224-4843


U.S. Senator Mark Pryor
255 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC  20510
Phone: (202) 224-2353


U.S. Representative Rick Crawford – 1st District, North Central & Northeast Arkansas
1408 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC  20515
Phone:  (202) 225-4076 Fax:  (202) 225-5602
(Counties:  Baxter, Fulton, Sharp, Randolph, Clay, Izard, Lawrence, Greene, Searcy, Stone, Francis, Lee, Phillips, Monroe, Arkansas, Prairie, Crittenden, and Lonoke)


U.S. Representative Tim Griffin – 2nd District, Central Arkanas
1232 Longworh HOB
Washington DC  20515
Phone:  (202) 225-2506 Fax: (202) 225-5903
(Counties:  Conway, Faulkner, Perry, Pulaski, Saline, Van Buren, White, and Yell)


U.S. Representative Steve Womack – 3rd District, NW Arkansas
1508 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Phone:  (202) 225-4301 Fax:  (202) 225-5713
(Counties:  Benton, Boone, Carroll, Crawford, Franklin, Johnson, Madison, Marion, Pope, Sebastian, Washington, and Newton)


U.S. Representative Tom Cotton – 4th District, South Arkansas
415 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC  20515
Phone:  (202) 225-3772
(Counties:  Ashley, Bradley, Calhoun, Clark, Cleveland, Chicot, Columbia, Dallas, Desha, Drew, Garland, Grant, Hempstead, Hot Spring, Howard, Jefferson, Lafayette, Lincoln, Little River, Logan, Miller, Montgomery, Nevada, Ouachita, Pike, Polk, Scott, Sevier, Union)

An Angel Unaware by parent (Amy O Neal)

As many of you know I am the team captain for the First Step Walk for Children “Team All for Anna”.  I have received several emails wanting to know who was Anna.  I thought I would share a little about Anna for those of you who did not know her and what a difference First Step made in her life.

Anna was a full term baby, she came out screaming and never really quit… Anna did not meet milestones the way my son did so I knew there was something not quite right.  When she was 15 months old we were told that she had Cerebral Palsy or maybe borderline developmentally delayed.  Every time we would take her back to ACH they told us it was a little worse than they thought.  After many tears and a heart that was completely full with emotion we enrolled Anna in the Early Intervention Services with First Step.  This was in 1988 when First Step was one small building.  I sat in the hall for months and cried while the therapist worked with her.  I gradually adjusted and then it was time for preschool.  I am pretty sure that Pam Bland had to “make” me leave her in preschool where she stayed until she was 6 and then went to public school.

When Anna was 4 she was diagnosed with Epilepsy.  At that time she lost her ability to walk due to the severity of her seizures.  At the age of 7 she had 90% of her brain split in half to help control the seizures.  She learned to walk again at the age of 9.  Throughout Anna’s life she had many health problems, falls, stitches and surgeries.  A hysterectomy at the age of 15, a feeding tube due to an aortic blockage in her stomach at the age of 17  and that is when we were told that she did not have Cerebral Palsy.  As you can imagine working with the team at ACH every test you could imagine was performed to determine what was really her diagnosis.  It was determined that she had some sort of degenerative brain disease that was so rare that maybe she was maybe the only one to have it.

First Step gave not only Anna a new start when she was just 19 months old but also helped a new mom adjust to the new world of having a child with disabilities.  Anna began receiving Medicaid Waiver Services when she was 13 and continued to receive waiver until she passed away in April of 2011 at the age of 23.

Throughout her life I learned way more from her than she ever did from me.  My husband, my son and I were blessed that God chose us to care for this “Angel Unaware”.

Anna led me to the job I have today and I have felt her right along beside me every step of the way throughout all of our fund raisers for the Walk for children.  I thank First Step for role that it has played in Anna’s life and now I am “working” for Anna as well as all of the other clients that are truly “An Angel Unaware”!   I say what a way to pay it forward!



Developmental Delays

What are Developmental Delays?

A developmental delay occurs when your child is delayed in achieving one or more of his or her milestones. This may affect speech and language, fine and gross motor skills, and/or personal and social skills.

About 4.5 million people in the United States have developmental disabilities, which are defined as severe, life-long disabilities attributed to mental and/or physical impairments and manifested before age 22.

Developmental disabilities result in substantial limitations in three or more of the following areas of major life activities:

  • The ability to live independently
  • The ability to achieve economic self-sufficiency
  • The ability to learn
  • The ability to be mobile
  • The ability to understand and express language
  • The ability to care for one’s self
  • The ability to accomplish self-direction

Without the right services and supports, the choices open to your child—including where he or she will live, play, and eventually work—are few.

He or she will be isolated rather than fully integrated and included in the mainstream of society. However, with individually planned and coordinated services and supports (for example, those involving health care, education, housing, employment, and civil and human rights protection) from many providers in the community, you can ensure the highest quality of life possible for your child and your family.

Making a call to First Step is the best possible step you can take in that direction.

Here are some of the most common conditions involving developmental delays and disabilities:

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Testimony by Donya – mother of Ali who attends First Step
Testimony by Donya – mother of Ali who attends First Step

Calling all Runners and Walkers!!! Donya J. Catlett would like to invite you to be a part of a fun memorable charity (5K Run/Walk) event for her daughter Ali, who has Battens disease. She is 4 years old and attends First Step. The event will take place on Saturday, June 2nd at 5:30 PM. at Lake Hamilton High School parking lot. They need your help with… Sponsors, Volunteers for event, snacks, and timers/for runners. Any donation on Ali’s behalf would be appreciated. For more information please call Laikin at 501-318-7747 or e-mail him at or e-mail Donya at!! Let’s see if we can help this sweet little girl and her family with this dreadful disease! Thank you in advance

My daughter Ali is  4 1/2 years old and will be 5  on July 9th.  She was diagnosed with Battens Disease on July 15, 2011.

Battens disease is a rare, fatal, terminal, neurological disease for which there is currently no cure.  Battens is fatal, in that, it only affects children & robs them of their ability to walk, to talk, to see, eventually leaving them as a vegetable to die.  Children with this disease do not get to play sports or even live long enough to go to their senior prom.  There are 9 different variations of Battens disease.  She has Infantile form which is the most fatal.  The life expecteancy for Infantile is 8-11 years.

Early intervention is key when dealing with any disease.  Ali is blessed with a great team at First Step.  She gets speech, PT, & OT therapies.  She loves all her teachers and nurses and they love her too.  Our family is so thankful for the individualized help they give her every day.

This disease does not have to be fatal.  We have much HOPE & FAITH.

We are currently raising funds for research to find a CURE for ALi and other children affected with Battens Disease.  We need your help & we need your prayers.   There are many ways that you can help.  We are currently recruiting members for  ”Ali’s Team” to help in this fight.  If you are interested, please call me at 501-617-5617.  I can tell you different ways you can help or where contributions can be made to Ali’s fund.

Please help us spread awareness about Battens by telling others.  Our family would appreciate your prayers.

Hearing Screenings / Hearing Evaluations

Hearing Screenings and Evaluations

Each center at First Step, Inc. has the ability to screen or evaluate the hearing of individuals, whose ages are between birth and adulthood. We have contracted with an audiologist for services for the past 15 years. Through the use of an audiometer and a tympanometer we are able to screen pure-tone air conduction hearing and determine the possibility of a referral to the primary care physician for middle ear problems. Utilizing the audiometers during this time speech pathologists and our audiologist have screened our consumers and referred them for further evaluation by our audiologist, observation by their primary care physician (PCP) or ear, nose and throat physicians (ENT). A part of that screening process is an observation of the middle ear and the movement of the eardrum (tympanic membrane). Tympanometry is helpful in diagnosing otitis media (ear infections, middle ear fluid) and distinguishing a sensorineural and a conductive hearing loss.

Some years after our audiologist came to First Step we ordered a sound proof booth to be able to evaluate more thoroughly the hearing of our consumers. We have VRA (visual reinforcement audiometry) capability which is used for screening the hearing of children who are 6 months through 2 years of age. The children are trained to look at the sound source. The children will receive a visual reinforcement for the correct acknowledgement of the sound source.

The most recent purchase for First Step has been an OAE (otoacoustic emissions) for each center which enables audiology assistants , audiologists, speech pathologists and nurses to screen every consumer who enrolls at First Step. The audiologist trains each of these staff members on how to operate this equipment. Otoacoustic emissions screens the hearing to the cochlea hair cells and the consumer does not have to make a physiological response. This screener is able to determine outer ear canal blockage, and the presence of middle ear fluid and possible damage to the outer hair cells in the cochlea. This equipment was utilized while First Step was working with two local hospitals, National Park Medical Hospital and Hot Spring County Medical Hospital, during the pilot project of the Newborn Hearing Screening in Arkansas. Our speech pathologists , audiologist and audiology assistant provided round the clock hearing screens to all of the newborns in those hospitals giving us a wonderful rapport with the staffs of those facilities which ensured better services for their consumers. When an infant failed the hearing screen at the hospital then they were usually referred through their pediatrician to First Step for further evaluation and treatment.

Through First Step’s commitment to providing quality care in the area of hearing and organizations such as the Hot Springs Community Foundation we have been able to purchase the equipment needed to provide such services. First Step has taken the lead in providing superior care for hearing issues in the communities we serve.

Way to Go First Step! by Suzie Downen

Recently, I was invited to the Ardmore Complex for a Birthday Party for one of your clients and my relative. I was so impressed with their teamwork between staff and clients. I used to be the case manager there and really enjoyed visiting the staff and clients. The group appeared so happy and shared in responsibilities for party and clean-up. Had most enjoyable time. Smiles were everywhere. Kathy Betz should be very pleased. I know I was impressed with their most impressive respect of others. I left the party with such a great feeling and just wanted administration to know that On Our Own has a great Case Manager in Amanda Patrick. Her Direct Care Janie Smith has a great relationship with her clients as well. Way to go ladies!