ISR & Swim Dangers: Much More Than “Swimming”

April 10, 2017 | JoAnn Barnett, ISR SMI
Tags: Infant Swimming Resource, ISR Controversy, Swimming Lessons, Dangers of Swim Lessons

Infants and young children see a world of fun ready to be explored. As parents, we see a world of dangers and threats to the safety of our little ones. From sharp corners, to electrical outlets, parents, develop a sixth sense for potential sources of harm and do everything we can to mitigate those dangers. Similarly, we become well aware of how quickly an everyday item, or situation, can prove dangerous and while we, as parents were installing cabinet locks, childproof electrical outlets, and foam cushions on sharp counter corners, pediatric drowning became the leading cause of accidental death for children under the age of 4 in the United States.

While dangers seemingly lurk behind every corner, parents become accustomed to the ways in which, as a society, we mitigate these dangers in the form of car seats, seat belts, bike helmets, immunizations, and a host of other solutions to traditional dangers facing our young families. All too often, though, parents overlook the statistically most significant danger infants and young children face in their home environment: the family swimming pool/spa.

Since 1966, ISR, or Infant Swimming Resource, has endeavored to not only give infants and young children the skills they would need to save their own lives should they reach the water alone, but also to help raise awareness among parents of young children of the significant danger the bodies of water all around us pose, from the 5 gallon bucket in the laundry room to the lake just steps from the backdoor.

Supervision and Knowing How to Swim are Portable

While pool fences, pool alarms, and locks on windows and doors leading to the backyard swimming pool are absolutely vital, and heavily advocated by our ISR Team, it is important to remember that water is all around us in the form of drainage ditches, lakes, retention ponds, pools, canals, and the oceans combining to make up the majority of space on this planet. It serves to reason that it would be impossible to safeguard the environment in all situations. The solution? To make the enjoyment of the water - such a significant portion of our environment - safe. A common sentiment among ISR swim families and ISR staff is that adult supervision, and the ability to swim are the most portable lines of defense against drowning… in that if infants and young children have ISR swimming skills, that is, the skills they would need to save their own lives if the need were to arise, there would be a significant reduction in the number drowning deaths each year globally. This idea is reinforced, often, when we hear stories just like the one below, underscoring the need for children to be an active part in the layers of defense against drowning:

“If anything, I hope that my story will impact the lives of parents with small children who are considering ISR. PLEASE, stop considering and DO IT! It’s the best thing you could ever do for your children and your family.”

My story Begins August 11, 2011, 5 days after my sons third birthday. My husband had just got home from work and I was off to our upstairs closet to pack for a long weekend trip up north. That day, we had several other older children playing in the backyard and around our lake. Gary, my husband, and James our son, were both back and forth from the house to the lake playing. At one point, I heard James crying as he came inside with his dad. James wanted his fishing pole fixed so he could go fishing. I came down stairs into the kitchen, and untangled his fishing line and tied a tiny little skateboard to the end to avoid hooks, worms, etc. This wasn’t the first time I had done that, in the attempt to help him practice casting and reeling in the line. I ran back upstairs to finish packing. In the meantime, something just programmed me, as most of you mother’s know, to quickly ask about where James was. In that instant, as I’m looking down at Gary from the upstairs, he says, “he’s outside with the kids playing.” I said, “are you sure?” And at that moment it all registered what was happening. Gary ran out of the house as fast as he could go. From behind, he looked like he was flying. Being 26 weeks pregnant, at the time, I wasn’t able to keep up. I could hear our son screaming for help, but I couldn’t see him. I knew in my heart he was in the water. I was yelling to my husband, “GET HIM OUT! GET HIM OUT!” Half way across our neighbor’s backyard and down to my-father-in-law’s dock, I could see his yellow shirt in the water. He was barely floating on his back, but he was doing it enough to get his mouth out of the water to breath and scream, “DADDY HELP ME! DADDY HELP ME!” A neighbor was wading in the water towards the dock, but by that time, Gary had already jumped in and pulled James out of the water. By the Grace of God, he was fine. Very lethargic, exhausted, and stunned over what had happened, but he was fine. James had dropped his fishing pole in the water and was trying to reach it, and fell in. The water was over his head. James had just started floating on his back that very same week in ISR. The day he fell in the lake was on a Thursday. It was the second most difficult week in ISR for James besides his first couple of days in the class. Like most small children, being on their backs in the water is an awkward position, but a vital one at that. Looking back, I now know why I was lead to ISR. I was adamant about it from the very beginning. Not growing up on the water, but frequently around it, I knew the importance of water safety skills. I had also helped with swimming lessons in high school for children 3-5 years of age, so I was aware of the danger associated with small children and water. ISR is a commitment. Just like anything else in our lives that are worth working for. Our children are our commitments and are worth working for. It is also a lifestyle change for the parent who is taking the child to the lessons. It is everyday, for six weeks, for 10 minute lessons at a time. Not to mention they are usually right in the middle of your morning when you get most of your chores and errands done. There are several other steps that you have to do to make sure your child is ready each and every day for their lesson. But, YOU JUST DO IT! James has exceeded the six weeks and is currently finishing up his eighth week. His instructor and I were both on the same page when we made the decision to keep him in longer. Parents, there are countless stories, each and every day of one more child that has not drowned, ONLY because of ISR. It’s the ONLY way to teach your child the lifesaving skills he or she will need in the event they accidentally fall in the water. My personal experience with ISR and Anna Anderson has been a remarkable journey. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t say a prayer to myself, thanking God for ISR and for Anna Anderson. She has truly made a difference in me and my family’s life. If it weren’t for her, James wouldn’t be with us today. The dedication, love and direction that she has given to my son over the past eight weeks, has been beyond doubt, amazing. I often think to myself that she’s one of the many angels that are here with us, walking this earth. She’s a talented, lovely woman that has given my son a second chance at life. Words cannot express the gratitude that my husband and I have for her and ISR. Our newest addition to the family is due to arrive November 15, 2011. He will be six months old in May of 2012, and will be in the water with Mrs. Anna! I look forward to our next journey with ISR. If anything, I hope that my story will impact the lives of parents with small children who are considering ISR. PLEASE, stop considering and DO IT! It’s the best thing you could ever do for your children and your family.

ISR, Swimming, & Layers of Defense

While “swimming lessons” can be a hotly debated topic, Infant Swimming Resource urges parents to research the technique used behind the viral videos they’ve seen on international news outlets, social media platforms like Facebook, and Youtube, because there is so much more available to little ones, and the generic phrase, “swimming lessons” doesn’t afford parents the opportunity to consider that there is a significant difference between the ISR Self-Rescue® Lessons found at Infant Swimming Resource, and the water acclimation type classes found elsewhere.