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Region Stories

These stories illustrate how early childhood programs and services funded by First Things First make a difference for young children and families in communities across Arizona.

Parents as Teachers provides support to Tucson mom of special needs son

When Jasmine Casasola, her husband and two children moved from Guanajuato, Mexico to Tucson, she felt sad and overwhelmed leaving her family and friends behind. As a parent of her 4-year-old daughter Jasline and her 3-year-old son Jassiel, who was deaf, she needed support.

She signed up for the Sunnyside Unified School District’s Parents as Teachers program funded by First Things First Pima South Regional Partnership Council. The program provides parents with free, in-home visits from a parent educator who teaches them how to support their children’s emotional, cognitive and physical development. The program supports parents prenatally and families with children, birth to age 5.

Maria Carrillo, a parent educator in the program, visited Casasola and knew right away she could help.

Casasola felt alone.

Her son would pull out his hearing aid and cry all the time. Casasola spent a lot of time attending to him, and then her daughter felt neglected. She would throw tantrums. The household stress kept increasing.

“I taught her ways to help manage her stress, like leaving the kids with her husband and going for a walk,” said Carrillo. “I taught her to identify her stressors and to understand that if you are stressed out, then your children will feel that and be stressed.”

One of the problems was time management. Casasola felt overwhelmed working full time and going back and forth to Jassiel’s therapy appointments.

“I helped her organize her time using a chart,” said Carrillo. “I told her to start asking the medical specialists to change the time and date of appointments to fit what was convenient for her.”

Carrillo also encouraged Casasola to help her children become more independent by encouraging them to make decisions.

“The biggest changes that helped are that my daily routine worked more efficiently with easier transitions,” said Casasola. “Both kids are more independent, and they make their own decisions when it comes to reading a book or deciding what they want to play. I learned what my role as a parent is and how to help them to be successful adults.”

After Jassiel had surgery to improve his hearing, Carrillo started working with Casasola on her children’s behavior. They learned sign language together, and Jassiel is learning more words to communicate his feelings and having fewer tantrums.

For Jasline, Carrillo encouraged Casasola to invite her to be a part of her everyday activities like folding laundry, cooking and spending time reading with her.

“This program helped me understand that my daughter needs me just like my son,” said Jasmine Casasola.

“I learned to do activities involving both of them equally to prevent my daughter from feeling forgotten.”

In addition to getting individualized support, the program connected Casasola and her children to other families in the program. They were also introduced to other resources like a library story hour and stay-and-play groups.

“The Sunnyside Parents as Teachers program provides all the resources the parents need to understand our children’s developmental stages through home visits and personalized lesson plans according to the needs of each family,” said Casasola. “But the most important thing is that they make us feel like a family. My parent educator has given me the support that I need to be a confident parent.”

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