What is the earliest age that a baby can learn how to swim? My family has been testing thiswith my nephew.
He was only 6 months old when we enrolled him in classes with a group calledInfant Swimming Resource.
Now, of course he's not "swimming.
"babies this young aren’t developmentally ready to move themselves forward through the water.
Instead the goal was to teach him to survive.
I have to say I was a bit skeptical when I first saw these clips.
How coulda baby who can’t even walk or talk learn how to float.
I mean, it kind of looks like torture.
But before a month had passed, my nephew proved me wrong.
Every day 2 American families lose a child to drowning.
Drowning deaths are decliningoverall but it is still the #1 killer of kids ages 1-4, aside from birth defects.
And Arizona, where my nephew lives, has a higher drowning rate than average, which isn't surprisinggiven that in the Phoenix area, 43% of homes have a swimming pool.
These classes they put my nephew in should really be the 3rd line of defense.
The first is a fencewraps around the pool latches shut, second is constant supervision.
But if those safeguards fail and a baby slips into the water, it sounds kind of farfetched but thequestion is what skills, if any, can the baby use to keep itself alive? That’s whereISR comes in “It’s completely different than otherprograms that are out there.
” This is Jennifer, one of my nephew’s instructors.
“There’s not a lot of singing and games even though there’s a ton of positive reinforcement.
”She told me that unlike other programs where kids might play in the pool or use floaties, ISRclasses are geared entirely toward preparing a baby for an emergency situation.
The instructor is shaping his behavior through basic operant conditioning.
When he positionshis body correctly in a float that behavior is reinforced with a good breath of air andwith her picking him up.
They did this every day for a few weeks and by the end my nephew could put himself intoa float after being tipped in face-down.
They also tested him with clothes on becausein most drowning situations, the child is clothed.
Now that he’s 1 year old and he's walking, he’s enrolled in the second set of lessons, whichteaches him to look for the stairs and swim toward them under water, taking breaks to float when he needsair on the way.
So is all of this good for him?Some people worry that this type of lesson is traumatizing.
My nephew certainly doesn't likethe lessons, and doesn't really like Jennifer.
“If they're not happy with me, I’m the teacher, I’m the bad guy.
But just as long as they’re successful in all the skills that are being taught.
”He never developed a fear of the pool.
And his tears don’t seem that different from theones that come when he doesn’t want to take a nap.
They also keep the lessons to just 10 minutes a day to reduce any health risks of beingin the pool.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says swimminglessons for kids 1 year and up can be effective in preventing drownings, but theydon’t support programs for babies younger than that.
“The water-survival skills programs for infants may make compelling videos for theInternet, but no scientific study has yet demonstrated these classes are effective.
”What they’re really worried about is that these classes could give parents a false senseof security - if they made parents even a little less vigilant, they would do moreharm than good.
So the doctors are waiting for more data.
But for my family, there’s kind of only one data point that we really care about right now.
The #1 goal is to make sure he'll really be tested.
But if my nephew does find himselfsuddenly under water, it won’t be the first time that he’s had to find his way back up.