/////KIDS FIRST of Fort Smith Bids Farewell to Special Graduates
KIDS FIRST of Fort Smith Bids Farewell to Special Graduates 2018-01-05T09:11:34+00:00

JUNE 11, 2004 | The doctors said he would never be able to walk. Five-year-old Joshua France was diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome, a rare disorder that causes severe developmental delays, seizures, speech impairment and other problems. But Joshua proved the doctors wrong. Thanks in part to the staff at KIDS FIRST in Fort Smith, Joshua recently has taken 30 steps with support and is well on his way to walking on his own.  

Ten children in KIDS FIRST, including little Joshua, walked in front of 75 friends and family members May 22 to receive diplomas at a graduation ceremony marking the children’s departure from the program and their readiness to enter kindergarten.

KIDS FIRST is a pediatric day health care program sponsored by the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. UAMS operates 11 of these specialized centers across the state. Children enrolled in the program are ages 6 weeks to 5 years and have special health care needs and developmental disorders, such as Down syndrome, autism, spina bifida and cerebral palsy.

Karen Tyler, director of the Fort Smith KIDS FIRST, said the graduation ceremony was an emotional one for the children’s families and for staff. “Many of the parents had tears in their eyes – they felt a lot of pride,” she said.

Before the children received their diplomas, a staff member would say something special about each child.

“We’ve had some of these children since they were babies, so we get very attached to them,” Tyler said. “And we also get attached to their families. Every time we have children leave the program, I make it a point to thank the parents for allowing us to take care of their children.”

The bright red caps and gowns, along with the diplomas, invitations and refreshments, were donated by a community volunteer group called the SBC Pioneers. Also assisting with the children at the ceremony was Girl Scout Troop #325.

Tyler said the center serves about 57 children a day and employs 22 staff members, including social workers, registered nurses, licensed practitioner nurses, teachers, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech language pathologists and administrative staff.

Staff members provide intensive services to meet the individual needs of the children. The children also receive classroom instruction to prepare them for kindergarten.

Links on This Page

UAMS KIDS First: http://www.kids-first.cc/

UAMS Department of Pediatrics: http://pediatrics.ach.uams.edu/

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