Casa Alegre supports families, children’s learning development


Casa Alegre reaches out to families and their children to serve as an early provider for the Family Infant Toddler program (FIT).

According to the New Mexico Department of Health website, FIT is a statewide program that provides early intervention services to infants and toddlers who have or are at risk for developmental delays. Families in New Mexico Casa Alegre also provides support and services to children who have or who are at risk for developmental delays. Services offered through Casa Alegre include speech therapies, occupational therapies, physical therapies, developmental specialist, hearing screening, audiology services, nursing, nutritionists, hearing, massage and hospital audiology.

“We want the children to have a good experience,” said Kent Howell, early intervention program coordinator. Howell, who has been with Casa Alegre for 11 years, is a case manager for families in the program, and also a developmental specialist who provides services for children to use within their home.

Casa Alegre strives to help children to be successful, and serves as a program to help children have an easier transition once they start school, Howell said. According to Howell, Casa Alegre supports a child’s learning and development from birth to about 3 years old. Casa Alegre also works towards fulfilling and meeting core values of the program with every family they help. Core values include family-centered practices, the focus on relationships, strength-based approach, reflective practices and ecological framework.

“We are a family-based program,” says speech and language pathologist Debra Card. “The children learn better in a home environment. We work with the family.”

Casa Alegre has served Socorro since 1998. When it first started, it served 6 to 10 percent of Socorro County population from birth to 3 years old annually —over 1,500 children and their family. It serves the whole of Socorro County, including Magdalena, Alamo, San Antonio, Lemitar, Polvadero, Veguita and La Joya. According to Card, the number of families and children who use Casa Alegre’s program has remained stable. It also serves families and their resources with health and medical issues, Card said.

Casa Alegre member Krystal Dillon, who has been a member since 2004, has used Casa Alegre’s program for all three of her children. She said it helped tremendously, especially when her oldest son was diagnosed with apraxia of speech. Apraxia is a speech disorder in which a person has trouble saying what he or she wants to say correctly and consistently, according to the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders’ website.

Howell said the people who work for Casa Alegre have unique personalities and operate as a team.Card, who worked as a pathologist in El Paso for 30 years, plans theme-based language enrichment activities for parents and children for at home practice. She found Casa Alegre, where she has been for four years, as an opportunity to help children build a strong foundation for language development.

There are also two bilingual staff members, Christine Lucero, who has been with Casa Alegre for 12 years and at Socorro General Hospital for 20 years, and Nicole Sanchez, who is fluent in Spanish and works as a development specialist and case manager for families in the program. Joanne Bitsui is the speech therapist for the Navajo community and has been with Casa Alegre for 10 years.

The program, which is a non-profit arm of the Socorro General Hospital, holds graduations for families and children who finish the program. The graduation has been a tradition for nine years, and this year 30 children will be graduating. Howell offers screenings at no cost. Call 835-8367 for more information.


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