The Story of The Gregory Kistler Treatment Center, Inc.



The Gregory Kistler Treatment Center, Inc. was founded in 1978 and named for Gregory Kistler who was injured in an automobile accident at the age of six. He sustained a brain injury resulting in paralysis of the left side of his body. Due to lack of available services, his parents found it necessary to take him to New Orleans, Louisiana, to receive specialized rehabilitative care. Several years after the accident, his niece, Michelle, was born with the birth defect spina bifida. Her mother, Jennifer, had never heard of spina bifida and went to the library for more information. The literature contained very dismal reports and it seemed  like there was no hope. As a result of these circumstances, the Kistler family became very aware of the need for a center in the Fort Smith area that could provide specialized rehabilitative services for children and at the same time allow the parents to see that they are not alone. Because of the awareness of the need for a center that could provide physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy, the Kistler family gathered together with community leaders and developed a plan to open a treatment center. Charles Shuffield, then President of what was Sparks Regional Medical Center, agreed to provide a room in the original hospital building. This room was provided at no charge. We expanded into five rooms in the same location after only six months. Then, hospital officials began to make plans to demolish the building and the Center was offered use of another building. In 1984, the Kistler Center moved to a 1,900-square-foot facility and began paying a nominal monthly rent. After conducting a feasibility study to determine the level of community support, the Center embarked on a campaign to raise the funds needed to construct a new treatment center. Over $1,300,000 was raised for constructing and equipping the new facility. Construction began in October, 1995, and we moved into our new 12,000-square-foot facility on June 13, 1996.

What was born out of one family’s need has grown to become an outpatient treatment center known throughout the region as the premier pediatric facility. Center staff has earned a reputation throughout the region for their compassionate professionalism and personal commitment to providing the highest quality care, not only to the children, but also to the entire family.  Parents, grandparents, siblings, and other caregivers are included in treatment when appropriate to facilitate continuity of care in all settings. 

Children who receive physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy at The Gregory Kistler Treatment Center span a wide range of diagnoses and needs. Some children need assistance with the basics of daily living, such as feeding and sitting up, while others may have problems with balance and coordination. The child’s diagnosis and individual needs determine the frequency and duration of treatment with most children receiving therapy regularly for a period of months to several years.

In 2011, the Kistler Center was certified by Developmental Disabilities Services as an Community Employment Support (CES) Waiver provider.  The CES Waiver program serves children and adults with developmental disabilities with an onset before the age of 22.  Now, the Kistler Center can bring help and hope to children and adults by providing choice and opportunity to live, play, and work in the home and community.

In 2012, the Kistler Center was certified as a provider for Autism Waiver by the Arkansas Autism Partnership in conjunction with Partners for Inclusive Communities and the University of Arkansas. This program provides intensive in-home intervention for children 18 months to 5 years. Children may remain in the program for a maximum of 3 years, or until their 8th birthday. The program funds a team of professionals and paraprofessionals to evaluate children and provide one-on-one intervention in their homes for 20 to 25 hours per week. Parents are included as members of the team. The program is designed to improve the child’s skills in the areas of communication, socialization, self-care and behavior.   Both the CES Waiver and Autism Waiver programs are a natural continuation of our services.