Bost helps kids, adults ‘es­cape’ from de­vel­op­men­tal chal­lenges

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - PROFILES - LARA HIGHTOWER

When a group of par­ents came to ask Fort Smith pe­di­a­tri­cian Dr. Roger Bost to help them with the ed­u­ca­tion goals of their chil­dren with in­tel­lec­tual and de­vel­op­men­tal dis­abil­i­ties, the United States was still 16 years away from pass­ing the Ed­u­ca­tion for All Hand­i­capped Chil­dren Act in 1975. That law would help pro­tect the ed­u­ca­tional rights of in­fants, tod­dlers, chil­dren and youths with dis­abil­i­ties. But, in 1959, there were few, if any, op­tions for fam­i­lies who wanted to pro­vide their chil­dren with an ap­pro­pri­ate ed­u­ca­tion that took into ac­count their de­vel­op­men­tal needs.

“These par­ents came to him and said, ‘Our kids can do so much more than just sit at home,’” ex­plains Jeanne Mont­gomery, di­rec­tor of mar­ket­ing and fundrais­ing at Bost Inc., the or­ga­ni­za­tion that has grown out of Dr. Bost’s orig­i­nal ef­forts. “So he be­gan his ‘School for Lim­ited Chil­dren’ and, since then, it’s grown to serve those school-aged chil­dren, as well as preschool chil­dren, and then through­out their lives. We serve over 1,000 peo­ple with de­vel­op­men­tal and phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties in 28 coun­ties.

“We start with chil­dren at 6 weeks old, and we take care of them through­out their life­span,” says Mont­gomery. “Of course, pub­lic schools are open now to peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, so they go to reg­u­lar schools, but if they need ad­di­tional care af­ter school, we have peo­ple that work one-on-one to help them meet what­ever goals they and their par­ents choose.

“What I find re­ally fan­tas­tic is watch­ing a child who might not have had se­vere dis­abil­i­ties but might have de­vel­op­men­tal de­lays, and through the ther­a­pies that we of­fer, they start school right on par with their peers. It’s fan­tas­tic.”

In fact, de­spite its orig­i­nal name, Bost has grown into an or­ga­ni­za­tion that helps chil­dren and adults chal­lenge the no­tion of “lim­its.”

Ce­celia Tu is the par­ent of Andy, a 48-year-old man with cere­bral palsy. The Tus had been search­ing for an ap­pro­pri­ate set­ting for Andy for some time when they found Bost. Andy was liv­ing at home at the time, but both par­ents had be­gun ex­pe­ri­enc­ing health is­sues. Tu says it made them re­al­ize that they needed to pre­pare Andy for the even­tu­al­ity of be­ing on his own. In 2006, Andy moved into a condo and, with the help of Bost, has learned fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy and ba­sic liv­ing skills.

“It’s been 10 years of train­ing, hard work and learn­ing,” says Tu. “We are proud par­ents. We have learned how to let go and learned how to trust Bost staff. [Andy] is on his own. He is re­ally get­ting along, he is mak­ing his own de­ci­sions — I don’t have to

worry. He is still tak­ing classes in speech ther­apy, and he is learn­ing to use the iPad and the iPhone. He can call any­body on the phone and can com­mu­ni­cate with any­one and help solve prob­lems. It’s won­der­ful to see him com­mu­ni­cate with other peo­ple.”

Tu says Andy has blos­somed so­cially since be­ing on his own.

“I think he’s do­ing a lot of good for other peo­ple in the com­mu­nity,” she says. “He does vol­un­teer work, he helps oth­ers. He takes cook­ies to the [Univer­sity

of Ar­kan­sas] sports teams.”

Bost hasn’t only ben­e­fited Andy. Tu says she and her hus­band are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a free­dom they have not ex­pe­ri­enced un­til now.

“I can go to classes, swim­ming classes, things like that, I can do all kinds of things I’ve never had a chance to do,” she says. “With these good ser­vices, we have our free­dom, and we’re able to en­joy our life and travel and do what we al­ways wanted to do in our golden years.”

Mont­gomery says that Bost re­cently ex­panded its hous­ing to Rogers and now of­fers hous­ing for six adults near the Pin­na­cle Hills Prom­e­nade. Those six units filled up be­fore con­struc­tion was com­plete, and Mont­gomery says such hous­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties are in great de­mand. Bost hopes to con­tinue ex­pand­ing liv­ing fa­cil­i­ties — pro­vided the fund­ing is avail­able. That makes ma­jor fundrais­ers — like the up­com­ing

“Grape Es­capes: A Vine Af­fair” — vi­tally im­por­tant to the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“We be­gan Grape Es­capes be­cause we have all of these needs for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties that may not be funded by the Med­i­caid they have. The hous­ing, for ex­am­ple, is not re­ally cov­ered. We don’t get any ad­di­tional grants; the govern­ment doesn’t say, ‘Here’s some money, build a house.’ We do it on our own be­cause it’s the right thing to do.”

This is Bost’s 15th year of the Grape Es­capes fundraiser and, says Mont­gomery, its suc­cess is made pos­si­ble be­cause of the gen­er­ous com­mu­nity spon­sor­ships it re­ceives, in­clud­ing ones from Owens Corn­ing, Re­gions Bank and BKD, the three “Pre­miere Part­ners” this year.

“The ven­dors do it for free, the cater­ers do it for free, the wine mak­ers do it for free … they’re all so won­der­ful,” en­thuses Mont­gomery.

“Fif­teen or 16 lo­cal restau­rants are pro­vid­ing food, and we’ll have wine from all over the world — around 375 dif­fer­ent kinds of wine.”

The wine pull will al­low guests to pur­chase a cork for $40 — “and they might get a $200 bot­tle of wine,” says Mont­gomery. A live auc­tion fea­tur­ing va­ca­tion pack­ages and a silent auc­tion con­trib­ute to the ex­cite­ment of the evening.

Mont­gomery has high hopes that the event will raise enough funds that Bost will con­tinue ex­pand­ing ser­vices, which, says Tu, are so needed in the North­west Ar­kan­sas area.

“Thanks to Bost’s help, Andy is a pro­duc­tive mem­ber of so­ci­ety, and so happy,” she says. “So many peo­ple need this kind of sup­port that we’ve re­ceived but don’t have ac­cess to it.”

Cour­tesy Photo

Andy Tu, pic­tured with Bost em­ploy­ees, has been work­ing with Bost for 10 years to im­prove his in­de­pen­dent liv­ing skills.

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