Thursday, November 14, 2013

Grace and ISR

I love the water. I grew up in Florida, surrounded by pools and lakes, the ocean and some springs. I swam competitively from the time I was eleven all the way through high school.

So, naturally, I'd love for my children to love the water too! I want them to be comfortable in the water but also to be safe.

I once trained and was certified as a lifeguard though. I know the risks. I have seen the horrors of infant and child drownings. Those are images you can never shake and something I will fight against with all that I can.

So, last spring, when I saw a link to a video on facebook about an infant who knew how to flip over on his back and float until someone could help him out of the pool, I was sold on the idea of early childhood swimming.

And by swimming, I don't even mean the lessons that get taught in most public swimming pools. I, after all, taught those very same lessons and I didn't believe in them enough to put my own child in them.

I wanted more than my child learning to blow bubbles and using "monkey arms" to navigate around the edge of the pool.

And I knew better than to rely on the false security that floatation devices can give. Even though we own a puddle jumper, I wanted my child to have the skills needed, not to have to rely on a floatie or water wings in order to survive.

Enter, ISR, or Infant Swimming Resource. I can't do it justice by trying to fully explain it, but I can summarize by saying this:

ISR gives infants and young children the ability to buy themselves precious minutes when an accidental (and usually preventable,) fall into the pool occurs. Toddlers learn to open their eyes under water, to search out the nearest exit point, to move forward in the water towards said exit point, and how to flip over on their back to breathe and rest before their body becomes too tired.

Enter, Grace.

When we got to America in July I searched out a local teacher right away. Our lessons started in early August. We went every day, Monday through Friday, for ten minutes a day. The lessons are highly structured with well trained teachers who are well aware about the science behind learning to swim. There are some dietary restrictions to help reduce excess gas in their bellies and some very specific procedures to follow.

(read: if you aren't a rule follower, this would not be the route for you to take!)

Within the first two days Grace had learned how to swim several feet to her "barb" (bar,) and within a week could swim 5 feet or so, underwater with her eyes open, towards her teachers hand.

All of this was with a smile!

I was ecstatic.

Then, week, three hit. It was time for Grace to learn how to float on her back. And she wanted nothing to do with it.

I wasn't surprised though. She wouldn't even dip her head backwards in the bathtub! Our teacher was amazingly patient with Grace though and kept on encouraging us, telling us that it would come. Thrashing and crying throughout the lesson then hugs and goodbyes afterwards. Such a girl!

She could do it, she just didn't want to! All the while, our teacher would look at me and say "Look, I'm not even holding her up!" Grace would be throwing a fit but floating on her back completely by herself.

Finally, two weeks later, in week five, it finally clicked for Grace. She started relaxing on her back. She would swim 4-5 feet, flip over on to her back for a rest, then flip back over and swim all the way to the wall!

In our last three days, we were able to do Grace's clothes test. She wore jeans, a t shirt, a sweater, and socks and shoes. She was really excited before she got in and a little confused once I handed her into her teacher. She wasn't crazy about how heavy everything was but was a trooper through the test, even was able to right herself and swim when she was flipped into the water! She also figured out how to pull the sweater off of her face when it covered her face while floating on her back.

On the last day of lessons I got in with Grace and her teacher taught me how to continue working with Grace. I will be honest, there was a lot to remember! The skills are very specific and it is easy to teach them bad habits (cause and effect are big conditioners, even picking up the child when they have done something incorrectly can send signals that they should continue doing that incorrect thing in order to be picked up!)

At the end of the time, I was very pleased with the results. A child who never would leave the step or even put their face in the water was yelling "More, please!" and loved swimming independently after a hand. I have full confidence that, God forbid, Grace would ever accidentally fall into a pool, that she has the skills to survive until help arrives, or she gets herself out of the pool.

All of that to say, lessons don't take the place of water safety! Please make sure full enclosures are around your pools or ponds and that toys and chairs are removed from the pool deck!

(I have great clips of her swimming, but as I am unsure if I am allowed to share them or not, I am keeping that to myself.)

And as a final note, I know this might be a bit controversial. There are people out there that think it is a terrible thing to do anything that makes your child cry or feel unsafe. Though Grace was clearly out of her comfort zone and was mad that she was not in control, I always knew that she was in safe hands and I observed every second of her lessons from just feet away. I also think that parenting means making some tough decisions that won't make the child happy at all times in order for something important to be learned. That's all...


Emily Powell said...

I MUST find one of these classes for Georgia. She is very dense with a lot of natural muscle mass...she sinks like a stone. Her swim lessons this summer were ok but not the best. I really need to look into this. Georgia loves the water and holds her breath really well...and we pushed her in (kind of mean) and she turned under water and found the side and got out BUT she just won't float!

Kelli said...


Lauren said...

wow! I've never heard of this, but what a great resource for teaching our tiny kiddos how to love and also respect the water!

Sonya said...

I've seen this in several places. I think it's great. As a child who grew up around water I've always loved it but I understood how to be safe and I have that healthy fear of water as well. I'd do this with my own kids.