Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The Crying Game Siuc Researcher Offers Key to the Noises Babies Make

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The Crying Game Siuc Researcher Offers Key to the Noises Babies Make

Article excerpt

Stephen E. Blache turns an ear to his computer speaker, taps the keyboard and listens for the sounds of recorded baby cries.

"AHHHH, vah-INK-caaah," coos one infant.

"Ahhh-WEEEEE, hic-cup," cries a hungry newborn.

Blache, a voice development expert at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, has recorded and analyzed babies' pain cries, hunger cries, pleasure cries and "pathological cries" - sounds of very sick infants.

Using these recordings and sonograms of each sound, Blache is unraveling the characteristics of crying. He's blended the information into a new multi-media presentation for medical professionals and parents.

Teaching them to distinguish among cries can lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment of infant health and learning problems, he says.

"We're working to devise a standardized method for hospitals to test the pitch of every newborn's cry. When pitch is too high, it can point to serious problems such as meningitis, asphyxia and neurological disorders," he said.

Blache also believes care-givers can benefit from the sessions. Learning to discern among cries could help prevent child abuse, he says.

"Babies who cry constantly are more susceptible to physical abuse. As a rule, parents aren't trained to deal with crying behavior," he said. "But once they're taught to sort out the sounds, they'll know how to better comfort their children. They can learn when to respond and when to ignore the cries."

Blache, a professor of communication disorders and sciences at SIUC, also volunteers as a "baby cuddler" in the special-care nursery at Memorial Hospital in Carbondale.

Babies born after a mere 25 weeks in the womb can be sustained by the nursery. Their birth rates range from 1 pound, 8 ounces to 5 pounds. These "preemies" are so petite that one of their tiny hands cannot encircle an adult's index finger.

Volunteers rock the babies to sleep - providing a daily dose of human touch to infants bound by medical machinery and life-saving routines. …

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