Shaken Baby syndrome is a preventable disability that strikes more than 1,200 children annually. 25% to 30% of the tiny victims die as a result while the rest of the sufferers deal with lifelong problems.
SBB causes head trauma with infants under the age of one at most risk. The chief attackers of this form of child abuse are the parents and long term caregivers. Generally it’s in an act of desperation to stop a baby from crying that a caregiver starts to shake the child. While the shaking does quiet the child, it’s not from soothing, it’s because the brain is being damaged. Approximately 60% of the victims are males, and between 65%-90% of the abusers are also male.
The actual damage is done by pitching the brain back and forth. The violent movement bounces the infant’s brain in the skull, rupturing blood vessels and nerves throughout the brain and tearing the brain tissue. The neck muscles of infants can not withstand the force of aggressive shaking. In severe cases of SBB the infant also endures actual forced impact to the skull.
The effects of this abuse are devastating.
Children who survive may have:
* partial or total blindness
* hearing loss
* developmental delays
* impaired intellect
* speech and learning difficulties
* problems with memory and attention
* severe mental retardation
* paralysis (some particularly traumatic episodes leave children in a coma)
In mild cases the damage isn’t picked up at times until the child enters school. By that time it’s harder to pinpoint the root of the cause of learning disabilities.
Some of the symptoms that a child has been shaken are:
# poor sucking or swallowing
# decreased appetite
# lack of smiling or vocalizing
# difficulty breathing
# altered consciousness
# unequal pupil size
# an inability to lift the head
# an inability to focus the eyes or track movement
Often the child is never brought to a doctor, or when brought to the doctor mentions of shaking are not brought up. With the symptoms often associated with other conditions SBB is difficult to determine.
The harsh reality of SBB is that it is a total brain injury even in the mildest of cases.(i) The development of language, vision, balance, and motor coordination, all of which occur to varying degrees after birth, are particularly likely to be affected in any child who has SBS.(/) In the unlikely case that the child is identified prior to three state programs can help with treatments to help overcome some of the damage. Once the child enters school programs therein take over.
The good news though is SBB is completely preventable. As long as an infant is not shaken it will not suffer the damage.