Our Amazing ISR Experience by ISR Mom Amanda
February 16, 2012 | Katie Smith
A few years ago I saw that video on YouTube of baby Miles who is an 11-month old seen walking out of the slider door at his home and falling into the pool while trying to reach a ball. After falling in he floats to his back and remains floating there in his pajamas until someone is able to come and get him. At the time that I saw this I was completely amazed and showed my friends the same video. The video states that Miles learned these skills through ISR (Infant Swimming Resource) and I definitely thought this type of survival training would be essential for anyone who had a pool and babies at their home. My daughter, Hope, was about the same age as Miles the first time I saw the video, but since we didn't have a pool at our house, I wasn't sure I saw the need for this type of extreme (as I saw it at the time) training. It seemed a bit overkill to me.
Over the past couple years, I've heard more and more about drownings in pools and Lake Michigan. In September 2010, my son, Oliver was born, and something just started to click with me. I began to think about how I know I am not a strong swimmer. I was terrified of the water all growing up. My parents had me in swimming lessons for years and I would freak out over them. I think they just finally gave up and figured I had learned enough to get by and wouldn't put me through the torture any longer. My parents tell the story of how on Wednesday I would start having anxiety about my swim lessons that weren't until Saturday. This is how much I hated the water and this went on for years. So, to this day, I feel like I can do just that - "get by." I definitely do not feel I am in any position to save someone if I had to. I'd like to think that I could or that my motherly instinct would just kick it into gear enough that I would know what to do, but I am not even confident in that. I cannot say without a doubt that I wouldn't first hesitate before jumping in for someone, even my own child, for fear of the water. To be honest, this realization scared the crap out of me and I didn't want my child to potentially have to depend on me to save them.
So as I began to contemplate swim lessons and what kind of lessons my kids should take, I saw a special report on the news about ISR swim lessons in Grand Rapids. I had a facebook friend that I knew also had her daughter enrolled in the same lessons. I got her instructor's name from her, and he happened to be the same one that was featured on the news, Michael Petrella. I contacted him that night and gathered all the information I needed to about the ISR lessons: cost, location, duration, etc. The cost is not cheap and the time commitment is great (10 minutes a day, 5 days a week, for typically 4-6 weeks). Still, I thought, this is something that could potentially save my child's life. We can afford it and I have the time, this is really something I should do - is what I thought to myself.
I talked to my husband the next day about it. He wasn't as sold as I was about it, after all, we don't own a pool, but he said if it would give me peace of mind and if I was willing to commit to the time involved, then he would support it.
I signed up through the website http://www.infantswim.com
and filled out the necessary registration forms and questionnaire for both my children. Then within two weeks my kids started lessons with ISR Instructor, Mr Michael (Petrella). I was nervous of what he would subject my kids to on the first day, I wasn't sure what to expect. Being that the lessons were only 10 minutes long, I was skeptical of what could be done within that short amount of time or how traumatized my kids would be if Mr Michael tried to cram too much into one day. Hope was up first. She's my social butterfly, rather fearless daughter, but can sometimes be hesitant (as any child would be) of new things. Immediately I could tell that Hope was comfortable with Mr Michael. He started off pretty slowly, just having her get used to the water a bit and kick her legs. By the end of the ten minutes she had gone under the water once or twice. This was a different experience for her and it made her a little upset, but I expected a bit of that.
During Oliver's first lesson, Mr Michael just held Oliver in the water and gently released him under the water to get him used to holding his breath as he went under. I was really worried there would be some sort of dunking, dropping, or just some other action that would have probably left me more traumatized than Oliver. But it wasn't like that at all. Mr Michael is experienced enough to know that some of the things they do will make mothers uneasy. (Especially a mother like myself who is not comfortable with the water) He was able to talk me through what he was doing and what he was looking for so I always felt comfortable with everything. Oliver still cries throughout the majority of his lessons, but that's normal and to be expected for the most part. He's learning new things and working really hard and the only way he can communicate is mostly through crying at this point.
After just four weeks of lessons, Hope completed her ISR lessons and was about to do the swim-float-swim ISR technique. The final test was swimming with her summer clothes on for one lesson and swimming with her winter clothes on the next lesson. This is to ensure that if she were to fall into a pool or a body of water with her clothes on, she would still be able to make it to safety or float until someone could rescue her. I have shared this video with nearly everyone I know and everyone seems to be impressed with her abilities. She's 3 1/2 years old, and this is after only 4 weeks of lessons.
Oliver is on his 6th week of lessons and just about there. He's beginning to float like a champ and when Mr Michael puts him in face first in the water he's getting better at turning over to his back. He's just about there and I'm thinking he'll get it after just a few more lessons.
Aside from the survival techniques that are taught, the lessons have given Hope especially a sense that she can do anything. Mr Michael's constant positive reinforcement along with meeting the goals of each lesson - whether it be swimming to wall and grabbing the ledge or diving in from a sitting position on the ledge and then going to a float - she has such a great sense achievement. Mr Michael makes her feel good about herself and she can see the results of what the lessons have taught her. This is something that will for sure will carry with her throughout her entire life, not just in swimming. It has given her so much confidence in herself.
The reason for this long, detailed (possibly boring to some) letter is to urge others to look into ISR swim lessons for their kids. ISR is for children 6 months - 6 years of age. I feel living in West Michigan, or anyone who owns a pool or is around pools often, this is such a necessary skill that all children should learn. Drownings terrify me as well as anger me because they are preventable. We don't think twice about putting our children in proper carseats, baby proofing our homes, or other safety measures to keep our children out of harm's way. So why not put them in swim lessons? It could not only save his/her life but also enrich their lives by feeling confident in the water.
Follow us on Facebook - www.facebook.com/InfantSwimmingResource