Category: First Step News

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

Wellness Policy

First Step, Inc.


First Step, Inc. acknowledges that the health and physical well-being of the students that we serve directly affects their ability to learn.   As research has shown, childhood obesity increases the incidence of adult diseases occurring in children and adolescents such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. The increased risk carries forward into their adulthood.   Research indicates that a healthy diet and regular physical activity can help prevent obesity and the diseases resulting from it.   First Step, Inc. is keenly aware that the eating habits and exercise patterns of our students cannot be changed overnight, but at the same time the board of directors believes that it is necessary to strive to create a healthy and safe environment that consistently promotes good nutrition and physical activity.

The problem of obesity and inactivity is a public health issue. First Step, Inc. accepts the responsibility to our students to promote good nutrition, which will include whole grain rich foods and fresh fruits and vegetables, and physical activity programs. First Step, Inc. is dedicated to the students we serve and accepts the responsibility of improving the school nutrition environment, promoting student health and reducing childhood obesity. Therefore, First Step, Inc. will adhere to the Arkansas Rules Governing Nutrition and Physical Activity Standards in Arkansas Public Schools.


It is our policy that all students will receive the maximum amount of physical activity that their physical disability will allow.


The school nurse’s primary focus is to promote wellness and disease prevention by early identification of hidden health problems that interfere with learning. The school nurse is on duty during school hours. She is available to the students who become ill or injured during school hours and will contact a parent/guardian when the situation warrants. Parent/guardian(s) are encouraged to contact the school nurse with any questions or concerns they might have regarding their child’s health and safety at school.

(Addendum 01/2015)

First Step Receives $2,500 Grant from Entergy

First Step Receives $2,500 Grant from Entergy

Entergy supports First Step and the services we provide to individuals with disabilities. Through First Step Supported Employment services, individuals who otherwise have difficulty finding or keeping jobs on their own receive assistance needed to be successful in their employment goals. First Step was awarded grant dollars from Entergy to aid in the implementation of a Job-Readiness Program. Individuals in our Adult Centers who have a desire to work and want training to better equip themselves for integrated employment settings will benefit from the Program. Thank you, Entergy, for your support and belief in the ability of those we serve to integrate successfully into the community of integrated employment!

Pictured above is Mark Hunt, Entergy Customer Service Representative,
presenting a check for $2,500 to Joanne Mitchell, First Step SE Coordinator.



Wal-Mart Store Manager recognizes SE Client

Shown in photo: Ted Parks, Wal-Mart Store Manger (left) and Terrence Dickerson, SE Client (right)

     Terrence Dickerson, SE client, was recently recognized by Wal-Mart Store Manager, Ted Parks, and associates for his outstanding integrity and customer service. Local customer, Christy Neubert, recently praised Terrence for his integrity in a Facebook post that went viral – over 115K Likes, 15.5K Comments, and 46.1K Shares! Mr. Parks shared with his associates that recently a school teacher here on vacation from Texas came into the store asking to meet Terrence.

    First Step, Inc. Supported Employment Coordinator, Joanne Mitchell, commented, “From the first, we recognized Terrence as a genuine and congenial person. Possessing an excellent work ethic, he has proven himself to be a dependable, honest, and valuable employee of Wal-Mart!” 

Congratulations Terrence!


First Step Staff Participates in Homeless Count

POINT IN TIME Homeless Count 

First Step’s social worker, Holly Sadowski (center), participated in the POINT IN TIME Homeless Count conducted on 1/24/2017. The purpose of this count is “to provide the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) with accurate numbers of homeless citizens for the purpose of distributing Federal dollars for homeless programs to areas where it is needed most.” Holly along with many other volunteers went out to the homeless camps in Hot Springs and surrounding areas, where they not only gathered data but also distributed baskets carrying hygiene and food items.