Most parents want their children to learn to swim, not only so they can enjoy the fun and excitement of splashing around in a pool or in the ocean, but also because it’s an important safety skill, especially for young children who are often naturally curious about water. The safety aspect takes on added importance in light of a report by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission which indicates that the average number of drowning deaths involving children younger than age five in pools and spas is on the rise. The report also shows that the majority of deaths and injuries occur in residential settings and involve children ages one and two. Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death to children ages one to four.
However, even if a child knows how to swim, he or she may not know what to do in the event of an accident. Moreover, children younger than one are also at risk of drowning. A program developed in 1966 by behavioral psychologist Dr. Harvey Barnett—Infant Swimming Resource (ISR)—has proven to be the safest, most effective aquatic survival swimming program in the world, and is being offered at St Vincent’s One Nineteen Health and Wellness and the Levite Jewish Community Center. ISR, which was featured on NBC’s Today show in May, teaches children as young as six months problem-solving techniques for surviving should they find themselves in water. It is a third layer of water safety defense, after constant eye and/or touch supervision of children in and around any body of water, and a four-sided pool fence with a locked gate.
The ISR program is a continuous course of skill development and refinement throughout the first six years of a child’s life. In the initial course, infants younger than 12 months learn effective posturing in the water to be able to roll onto their backs to sustain a floating position. After age one, children learn to incorporate the basics of the rollback and float along with swimming propulsion and flipping over to move through the water efficiently. Refresher lessons are needed annually or every six months to maintain aquatic survival skills as a baby or child’s body changes. After age five or six, parents are encouraged to continue their child’s aquatic education through traditional stroke development classes.
ISR is taught by trained instructors who offer one-on-one, custom-tailored lessons to enhance the individual needs of each child. The instruction format is based on research within ISR that
concluded that the optimal learning for children is 10 minutes per private lesson with five lessons per week. Consistent daily lessons establish a routine with the student providing comfort and readiness to learn, and because ISR lessons are individualized the pace goes very quickly—a 10-minute lesson will fatigue most children, especially infants.
The registration fee for ISR is $105. Once the registration process has been completed online, a child’s medical history is reviewed. The instructor then individualizes any modifications necessary to make lessons as safe and as effective as possible for each child. Lesson fees are $85 per week which includes five lessons per week.
The Float and Rollback Class for children ages six to 11 months requires 20 lessons (about four weeks to learn rollback and float, including with clothes). The Swim-Float-Swim Sequence Class for children ages 12 to 72 months requires 30 lessons; children one year of age and older can be independently swimming in about six weeks. Each year following the initial training, one to two weeks of refresher lessons will be needed; the lesson fees are the same as above, while the returning student registration fee is $35. In addition, maintenance lessons are recommended for monitoring a child’s survival swimming skills, especially for children ages six to 24 months. These lessons are available throughout the season following the initial or refresher lessons and cost $15 per lesson.