Water Safety for Infants and Toddlers - MetroFamily Magazine
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Water Safety for Infants and Toddlers

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With summer in full swing, many of you have already visited the pool or the lake a few times, or are planning to in the near future. Swimming is a favorite activity among children of all ages, and infants, toddlers, and preschoolers are no exception. While the YMCA and the American Red Cross offer infant and toddler recreational swimming classes, one program in particular is geared toward self-rescue skill instruction for very young children.

Infant Swim Resource (ISR) was developed by Dr. Harvey Barnett. While working as a lifeguard during college, Dr. Barnett witnessed the aftermath when a neighbor’s infant drowned in a few inches of water. Soon after, Dr. Barnett began teaching young children in his neighborhood how to swim, carefully observing their responses to certain types of instruction and techniques. He went on to earn advanced degrees in education and psychology and continued his research, eventually developing the ISR program.

Water Accidents and Drowning
Drowning claims the lives of approximately four thousand U.S. children every year, and is the second-leading cause of accidental death in children. Of all preschoolers who drown, approximately 70 percent are in the care of one or both parents at the time of the accident. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, for every drowning death, there are one to four nonfatal submersions serious enough to result in hospitalization. Finally, an estimated 19 percent of drowning deaths occur in public pools with certified lifeguards present.

General Water Safety Tips
With these staggering statistics, it’s key to remember the number one rule of water safety for children of any age is constant supervision by an adult who can swim. According to the American Red Cross, children should be supervised in any water environment regardless of skill level. Younger children should be kept within arm’s reach at all times. The use of floatation devices should never decrease the level of supervision, and many lifeguards in fact discourage such devices. Children should be enrolled in water safety courses or Learn-to-Swim classes appropriate to his or her age level. Parents and caregivers should enroll in CPR courses, and pools should always be secured with a locked perimeter.

Infant Swim Resource
Edmond mom Janna Carr was deeply affected by the drowning death of her childhood friend’s 18-month-old brother. “I was in seventh grade at the time, and it made a huge impact on me. I’ve always been really nervous about my children around water.” After hearing about the ISR program, she enrolled her then 20-month-old daughter, Kaedyn. “I know this is no replacement for my supervision, but I saw it as an extra safety precaution.”

The ISR program is a comprehensive swimming instruction program focusing on self-rescue techniques, and is delivered in ten-minute sessions, five days per week for four to six weeks. A certified instructor remains within arm’s reach while conducting the one-on-one training. Children 6-12 months old learn to hold their breath underwater, roll onto their backs in the water, and float unassisted. Children over the age of one learn how to hold their breath underwater, swim with their head down, and roll to their backs to float, rest, and breathe. Video representations of children demonstrating these techniques with their instructors were recently featured on the Today show, and are available at the ISR website.

It took Kaedyn about five weeks to fully learn the self-rescue techniques. “At first, she cried when she got into the water, but the instructor was very gentle and caring with her. She was completely focused on her mental and physical well being. It was a very positive environment, and fear tactics were never used. Before long, she was enjoying the lessons, and came up smiling and clapping every time!” Carr also notes that her daughter was never in the water longer than ten minutes, and less if she seemed fatigued. While she highly recommends the ISR program to those with small children, she is hopeful that the rescue techniques learned by her daughter are never utilized.

Remember to be safe in the water this summer! Constantly supervise children who are swimming or playing in or near a body of water, and consider swimming and self-rescue lessons for your children. For more information, visit the American Red Cross website at RedCross.org or the Infant Swim Resource site at InfantSwim.com.

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