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Shaken baby syndrome simulator baby arrives at Family Counseling Service

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If you continually shake a baby to get the child to stop crying, you might succeed — as well as cause brain damage.

That scenario is what Family Counseling Service of Northern New York’s new shaken baby syndrome simulator shows when the baby’s head isn’t supported and is jerked around.

“People don’t realize how easily you can damage a baby’s brain,” Family Counseling CEO Collene D. Alexander said. “People may throw the baby in the air in their hands a little, and while the baby may laugh, it could still damage the brain.”

The simulator, which staff has named Christian, looks and feels like a real baby. Its head, however, is clear so that people can see which parts of the brain are affected by different ways the baby is shaken. After the baby is shaken in constant motion, different parts of the brain will light up to show whether vision, memory, emotion or the ability to speak and hear would be affected.

According to information from Realityworks, the maker of the simulator baby, shaken baby syndrome is a form of abusive head trauma that causes brain injury, bleeding at the back of the eyes, swelling of the brain and other injuries. Someone found to have shaken a baby, causing injury or death, may be charged with assault on a child or child homicide.

Christian will be introduced into Family Counseling’s Nurturing Parents program after she has an introduction with the Jefferson County Department of Social Services this week. The shaken baby simulator is the only one of its kind at Family Counseling Service, although there are a few other simulator babies used in the Nurturing Parents program. Those simulators are more lifelike, and they can record when a baby is changed, cries, is fed or is neglected.

Mrs. Alexander said the Nurturing Parents program is designed to teach parents and children from low-income populations who are at high risk for child abuse and maltreatment.

Christian cost $812 and was purchased with a $750 grant from Stewart’s Holiday Match and some agency funds. Mrs. Alexander said when the shaken baby simulator was ordered she was unaware of different simulators, such as ones about fetal alcohol syndrome and the effects that pregnant women taking drugs has on babies.

If and when funding allows, Mrs. Alexander said, she’d like to add them to the Nurturing Parents program as well.

After Family Counseling’s program gets going, Mrs. Alexander said, she also hopes community agencies contract with it to educate more people about parenting practices.

Agencies that would like to set up a demonstration of how each simulator baby works can call Family Counseling Service at 782-4483.

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