Swim Instruction Teaching Kids to Survive in Water
Drowning is the number one cause of accidental death in children under age four in Arizona, Florida, California and Texas. A swim program called Infant Swim Resource can teach kids ages 6 months and up how to survive in an aquatic environment.
ISR South Mountain instructor Casey Bunn, 26, says the approach is different than most other programs in that it teaches the students to swim, rotate into a float to rest and breathe and flip back over from a back float to continue swimming. The skills take about 6 to 8 weeks to learn.
“When she doesn’t feel comfortable swimming she can float,” Bunn says about 2-year-old Carter Castle, a student who has recently completed the program.
Bunn has been teaching the program for two years, this is her first year in the South Mountain area.
She said the first week is teaching them how to swim and learning how to breathe.
Bunn has a special bar on the side of the pool that allows even the youngest babies something to hold onto and get air instead of reaching for the edge of the pool.
“I use the bar first and they learn that’s where they’re going to get their air,” Bunn said.
TerryLee Tyrrell, the mother of 20-month-old Ellie, says she is very impressed with how much Ellie has learned in such a short time.
“I’ve been unbelievably impressed. By the end of the first week she was swimming to the edge of the pool,” said Tyrrell. “Every week I watch my child become more secure around the water and learn survival skills.”
The second week Bunn introduces the float.
“The positive reinforcer is air or being picked up,” said Bunn. “Everyday they go a little longer in the float.”
Bunn said she wants her students to not hold their breath for long- no more than seven seconds. When 4-year-old Austin Kirk isn’t going into a float and has been under water for several seconds, Bunn uses a hand motion to remind him he needs to go into the float.
Other students like Ellie Tyrrell, 20 months, like to float on their back and need to be reminded that they need to swim too. Sometimes Bunn uses a touch and other times she creates a small current in the water to get them into a swim position.
“I can use currents to motivate them and soon they will make their own currents,” she explains.
Each class session is 10 minutes, five days a week and one-on-one with Bunn in her pool.
“Ten minutes is short, but they’re doing a lot,” said Bunn. “Our main concern is that they’re propelling themselves through the water. If they’re in a pool they can get to the edge, but if they’re in a lake or ocean, they need to be able to take breaks.”
She currently has 10 students and would like to take on more. Her season is April through October depending on the temperature of the pool. She likes to keep it between 78 and 88 degrees.
Tyrrell says she found Bunn through recommendations from friends.
“From the 10 I had asked, 8 had used ISR,” Tyrrell says. “The other two that used the Y had been doing it for months and when I went to watch the kids, it was night and day.”
Bunn says parents should not go in the pool for the first three weeks because the child is in a learning curve and they can pick up bad habits from their parents. Kids also shouldn’t be allowed to take baths while laying on their stomachs or on their backs. The bath water should be no deeper than three-inches as they will get a false sense of security and will feel for the bottom of the tub during lessons and not float correctly.
Bunn had to go through a 60-hour five-week training including spending time in the pool with students and a master trainer, watching videos of herself and other trainers and doing book lessons.
“There is never a perfect lesson,” she said. “Every second is different for every child.”
Bunn said the lessons are work for the kids and not play, although she makes it fun. Her students like to swim to get the fish on the bar. Most kids are exhausted by the end of their ten minutes and take a rest on a cushioned towel for a few minutes.
“Kids are working here, not playing,” Bunn said. “Once they get the independence (of swimming and doing the float) it’s an ah-ha moment.”
Bunn says parental supervision and a pool fence can’t be beat.
“This is the last layer of defense,” says Bunn.
Tyrrell agrees in that it’s an extra layer of defense.
“I own a pool number one and I’m a firm believer of giving a child every chance to survive,” she says. “I’ve got the pool lock on the door and a pool fence and I watch her all the time, but I wanted one more level of security.”
Tyrrell says she would definitely recommend ISR to everyone.
“I’m a firm believer of ISR, but I encourage anyone whether they have a pool or not to provide some type of lesson to their child,” Tyrrell adds.
Casey Bunn can be reached at (602) 358-7995. Her website is http://www.infantswimclasses.com. Email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Lessons are $85 per student per week.