Big Changes for the ARC of Tyler Helping People with Mental Retardation

Many special needs kids require more than a classroom. They need a home where they can learn everyday things like playing together and cooking.

The ARC gives them that.

"It gives them a real life feeling to everything and that's what these kids need the most," says Vickie Kyker, special needs teacher at Dixie Elementary.

"They don't do a lot of sitting at the desk." Vickie Kyker's Dixie elementary class is the first to put their hands on the many educational games and puzzles in the ARC's new and very bright Creative Learning Center.

"Prior to this point, we provided programs and services as needed and as required by our citizens," says Jacque Fowler. "We have special events, we have recreational events, and we have a camping program."

Now the ARC is working to bring the people they serve into the ARC so they can access more hands on learning from the kitchen to the dining room.

"We have a real honest to goodness kitchen, washer and dryer in a home setting for people who are learning basic life skills to come here and do it in a house is really beneficial to them," says Fowler.

The ARC's programs have been a lifesaver for Beverly Uzell's family.

"Travis is my step son," says Beverly. "But, he is my son. He came into my life little over two years ago."

Travis has Down's Syndrome.  Beverly found support and knowledge at the ARC to deal with the joys and stresses of raising a child with mental retardation.

"You don't know where to go to give him a better quality of life and as a mom as a parent, be it a child or a step child it is your responsibility," says Beverly. "So we kind of learned along with Travis."

And the people at the ARC hope that every table set, every meal cooked there will get the special students in Smith County one step closer to achieving a greater degree of independence.

Dana Dixon reporting