Drowning is the leading cause of death for kids 4 and under. And guess what? It’s completely preventable. Kids as young as 6 months can learn the self-rescue skills that Infant Swimming Resource (ISR) teaches.
Pictured above are two of my little ones floating on their own. This was when they were 9 months old and 2 years and 9 months old. Not even 1 and 3! And in full clothes. This was the day they graduated from the program.
This article was originally posted on my personal blog several years ago. I have updated it and added it here for my readers. We participated in the ISR program in 2014 when we lived in Florida and only had two children.
I want to answer a few questions since you’re probably wondering what the heck this is about. You can locate an instructor in your area using the instructor locator. The instructor we used, Nicole Meade, owns Marion County ISR in Belleview, FL. She is a master instructor and teaches new instructors, so she knows her stuff and is excellent with the kids. She has a real passion for what she does.
Why should I do this?
You should put your kids in ISR so they can learn to self-rescue. It is not a substitute for adult supervision. It is not a substitute for traditional swim lessons (their little bodies aren’t equipped for the movements of traditional swim strokes until they’re about 5 or 6 years old, so you can definitely enroll them in those lessons when they are a bit older). It is not a substitute for having a fence around your pool. It is a substitute for water wings, inner tubes, pool noodles, and any other flotation device that is not Coast Guard approved (such as a life vest that you’d use on a boat).
Children in ISR learn to hold their breath, open their eyes underwater, roll to their backs and float (which allows them to rest), then roll back over and swim underwater (kicking mostly but using whatever arm stroke they feel comfortable using) while looking for an exit, then roll back to a float again to rest. They do not rely on floatation devices because they do not represent a realistic situation where drowning might occur.
What ages can learn to self-rescue?
ISR is for children 6 months to 6 years of age. Infants learn to roll to a float and then come back for another set of lessons to learn the swim-float-swim sequence after they are walking well. Toddlers, preschoolers, and little kids learn the full sequence.
How long are the classes?
Each session is 10 minutes a day, 5 days a week, for approximately 6 weeks. This ensures that the children don’t reach the point of exhaustion during a session and it helps reinforce the skills to do a little each day.
Do they cry? Is it hard to watch? Is it child abuse???
They do cry, it can be hard to watch, but it is NOT child abuse by any stretch of the imagination. You may be asking this because you saw some YouTube videos that misrepresent what ISR is. Let me explain.
These are not easy skills to learn. Toddlers get frustrated easily. Babies don’t understand what’s going on. Some kids just don’t want to do the skills even after they’ve learned them! My Miranda (the oldest) is so stubborn but she learned the skills and she’s proud that she is able to do them now. She might not have cooperated every time, but yeah…she was 2. Ruby just plain didn’t like to be on her back so she cried while floating and then turned it right off when Nicole picked her up. If a child is crying while floating, that is actually a good thing because it alerts adults to what is going on.
Also try to remember that crying is normal when kids experience new emotions and new situations, and of course nobody wants to see their kid cry, but we are parents and it’s our job to protect our kids and help them learn the skills necessary for safety. Some kids melt down when they don’t want to hold their mother’s hand in the parking lot…is that child abuse? Of course not. Contrary to popular belief, the instructors do not throw the kids into the water on the first day (or any day) and then yell at them when they don’t save themselves. They don’t do anything that is not developmentally appropriate. They will work with the parents and explain the skills they are teaching and how the child is progressing.
How do I pick an instructor?
Some localities are limited on choice of instructor, but even in our smallish Florida city, we have two instructors close by. Each instructor has their own way with kids and you must find someone you click with. I would highly recommend going to watch a few sessions before you enroll your child. Talk with the instructor and see how they interact with your kids. Nicole is incredibly loving with the kids and she knows when to push them and when to ease up.
Why do they have clothes on?
Most drownings do not occur when a child is wearing a swimsuit and heading to the pool with parents. They occur when kids quietly slip out an unlocked back door while the babysitter is texting her boyfriend. They occur when a child wanders away from the group while camping and wants to check out the fishing lake. They occur when the parents have a party out back and the child wakes up and wants to see what’s going on and falls into the pool.
Drowning is not the splashing noisy racket you see on TV. If a child cannot swim or float, the child goes straight to the bottom and cannot get themselves back to the surface. It can happen in a pool, jacuzzi, lake, river, pond, a fountain at a nice hotel! Anywhere where there is standing water (including the toilet and bath tub, although ISR skills don’t help in those situations.) If your child is missing, always check your pool, jacuzzi and bathroom first! The child will most likely be clothed, so it’s important for them to be able to save themselves in play clothes, pajamas, winter clothes, and in a diaper full of water (if the child is still regularly in diapers).
How much does it cost?
This varies based on location and instructor experience. We paid approximately $500 for the full tuition and registration with the national entity for each child. Usually if you pay for the six weeks in full, which is what we did, you get a discount. You need three towels for each child at each lesson (I got ours for $5 each at Walmart). You need swim diapers for kids under 3 or kids who aren’t potty trained (this keeps poop accidents out of the pool…the pool has to be closed for the rest of the day to decontaminate it if there is a poop accident that leaks into the water). You need a couple or three swimsuits (check clearance racks, sales or consignment shops). And you’ll be doing more laundry so you can factor that in, but that’s no biggie if you ask me. I threw the suits and towels into the dryer when we got home each day, and washed twice a week only.
My kids have their skills, now what?
It’s a good idea to take refresher courses to keep the kids in the water if you do not have a pool that you use on a regular basis. This also reminds their bodies of how to do the skills instinctually even though they are growing and changing. I believe they are about $20 a week and you only go once a week. For kids who learned the floating part as an infant, getting back in to learn the swim-float-swim sequence after they are walking well is a really good idea, and should only take a few weeks (this would be at the regular price).
Most of all, remember that you still need to keep a very close eye on your child, especially if you have a pool. ISR’s motto is “I can swim, just watch me!” Take shifts watching the kids during a pool party (or just don’t have a pool party to begin with). Lock that pool fence and double check all your doors. You as the parent are still responsible for your child.
This post is linked up with the Homeschool Review Crew!