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What is ISR and how is it different from other swimming programs?

ISR is the product over 45 years of ongoing development in the area of aquatic survival instruction for infants and children. ISR's primary focus is to teach your child to become a productive swimmer, or floater in any depth of water. The goal of ISR is that your child becomes an "aquatic problem solver." ISR will greatly increase your child's chance of surviving an aquatic accident, even when fully clothed!


Are  ISR  Self-Rescue®  swimming  lessons  safe  for infants and young children? 

YES!  ISR  is  dedicated  to  safety  and  maintaining  numerous  safety  protocols  to  promote  safe  lessons. Your child's health and well-being are our  highest  priority  and  are  closely  monitored  on  a  daily  basis.  In  addition,  your  child's  medical  and  developmental history is a mandatory part of  the  ISR  national  registration  process,  all  of  which  is  held  strictly  confidential.  All  ISR  Instructors  undergo  an  intensive  and  rigorous  training  that  far  exceeds  any  other  training  program  of  this  kind.  Each  ISR  Instructor  is  also  required  to  attend  a  yearly  re-certification  symposium  that  includes  quality  control  as  well  as  continuing  education.  Your  education  in  the  area  of  aquatic  safety  for your entire  family is an integral part of  your child's lessons. You will receive access to the  "Parent  Resource  Guide",  written  by  Dr.  Harvey  Barnett and JoAnn Barnett, which will inform you  of  every  aspect  of  swimming  for  infants  and  children.  With  research,  you  will  find  that  ISR  is  the  safest  survival  swimming  program  but  also  the most effective  for  teaching infants and  young  children.


 If my child is under one year old, what will he/ she learn? 

Children between the ages of 6-12 months old are  taught  to  roll  over  and  maintain  a  back-float  position in  the event of an accidental  fall into  the  water.  Teaching  your  infant  to  Afloat  takes  approximately  2-4  weeks.  Private  10-12  minutes  lessons  per  day  are  held 4 days  a  week,  Monday  through  Thursday  Skilled  infants  are  taught  to  maintain  a  back-float  in  a  bathing  suit  and  in  clothing.  If  you  own  a  hot  tub,  pool,  boat,  or just  enjoy  the  water,  ISR  highly  recommends  survival  training once your infant begins to crawl.


If my  child  is  over  a  year old,  what  will  he/she  learn? 

Children  over  the  age  of  one  year  are  taught  to  swim with  their  face in  the water, and when they sense  the need for air, to roll back  onto  their  back  to  Afloat.  After  resting  and  breathing,  they  will  roll  over  and  continue  to  swim  to  the  nearest  point  of  safety.  A  child  can  perform  this  swim-float-swim  sequence  to  reach  safety  in  a  survival  situation.  Children can also perform this sequence in their clothes.  If  a  child  does not see a way out of his predicament, he will  roll  over  onto  his  back  and maintain  a  back-float  position. This buys the parent time in the event of an accident.  This same sequence is most often used for fun at the pool! The confidence and self- esteem of these young swimmers is truly amazing!  Teaching  your  12 months  to  6  year  old  will  take  approximately  6  weeks.  The lesson format is the same as for the infants.  


You say your priority is survival skills. Will my child learn to actually swim? 

 Yes.   At ISR, we believe that part of survival for a child who can walk is swimming.   Children learn  the  swim-float-swim  sequence  so  that  they could  get  themselves  to  safety.    The  difference  in  our  program  is  that  they  will  learn  swimming  AND  survival  skills and  how  to  be an aquatic  problem  solver.  


Will my child need additional lessons?

Based  on  our  research,  we  know  that  refresher  lessons are important because children change so  much  both  cognitively  and  physically  during  the  first  4-5  years  of  life.  It is  important  that  their  water survival skills grow with their bodies.  Frequency  depends  on  the  child's  age,  growth  rate,  skill  level  and  confidence  level.  The  goal  of  refresher lessons is  to help your child adjust his/ her new body size and weight  to his/her existing  skill  level.  Your  Instructor  will  work  with  your  child  to  help  fine-tune  his  or  her  aquatic  experience  to  assist  with  building  efficiency,  which  will  result  in  self-confidence.  This  is  especially  important  if  your  child  has  not  been  able  to  practice  any  appropriate  aquatic  skills  between seasons. 


What  is  the  AAP’s  position  on  swimming  lessons for young children?

In  May  of  2010,  the  AAP  changed  its  policy  regarding  the  age  at  which  children  may  start  swimming lessons, based on research stating that  swim  lessons  may  actually  provide  reduction  in  drowning  risk  of  children  ages  1-  to  4-years-old.  That  study,  “Association  Between  Swimming  Lessons  and  Childhood  Drowning”  published  in  the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine,  March, 2009, by Brenner et. al. was the first study  to  probe  the  relationship  between  drowning  reduction  and  swimming  skills.    That  study  concluded  that,  “Participation  in  formal  swimming  lessons  was  associated  with  an  88   reduction  in  the  risk  of  drowning  in  the  1-  to  4- year-old children…”        The  AAP  encourages  parents  to  consider  that  starting  water-survival  skills  training  at  an  early  age  must  be  individualized,  based  on  the  child's  frequency  of  exposure  to  water,  emotional  maturity, physical limitations and health concerns  related to swimming pools. 


Why should  parents  enroll  their  children  in  ISR lessons?

 ISR  parents  are  intelligent  and  enroll  their  children because they understand their children's  abilities and want to give them every opportunity  to  learn.  They  also  feel  it  is  important  to  teach  their children how to help themselves should they  Find  themselves  alone  in  the  water.  Research  shows that there are better times to learn certain  things and swimming is best learned early in life.  (Newsweek and Drowning Statistics) 



How  much  will  my  child  remember  from  his  initial lessons?  

Like any physical skill, children don't "forget" the  skills but will need to adjust their skills to account  for their physical growth. In addition, children will  explore  and  may  pick  up  bad  habits  watching  other children or with interference like floating in  a  bathtub  or  playing  on  the  steps.   As  your  child  goes  through  lessons,  you  will  begin  to  understand,  through  communication  with  your  Instructor, what activities may interfere with his/ her  learned  ISR  Self-Rescue®  skills.    Contacting  and/or  returning  to  your  Instructor  in  a  timely  manner  is  imperative  to  maintaining  effective  habits.  


Why do you have the children swim in clothes?  

Because most of the children who fall in the water do so fully clothed, we want our students to have  experience  with  such  a  situation.    If  a  child  has  experienced  the  sensations  of  being in  the  water  in  clothing  prior  to  an  emergency  situation,  he/ she is less likely to experience panic and be able to  focus  on  the  task  at  hand.      If  you  have  ever  jumped  in  the  water  with  clothes  on,  then  you  know  that  there  is  a  significant  difference  in  weight  and  feel  with  clothes  as  opposed  to  a  bathing suit. 


Why are  lessons 4  days per week and  for only  10-12 minutes?  

The  reason  for  this  is  multifaceted.    First, repetition and consistency are crucial elements of  learning for young children.   Research shows that short,  more  frequent  lessons  result  in  higher  retention.  Second, most children have fairly short  attention  spans  and  will  not  be  able  to  focus  on  the  task  for longer  than  the 10-minute  time span  and we want to take advantage of the best time for  learning.   A  third  reason is  that,  though  the  pool  temperature  is  maintained  at  78-88  degrees,  the  temperature  is  still  lower  than  your  child's  body  temperature.      Lessons  are  work  and  therefore  your  child  will  also  be  losing  body  heat.  Instructors  check  students  regularly  for  temperature  fatigue  since  this  is  an  indicator  of  physical fatigue.  


If  more  frequent  but  shorter  lessons  are  better, then why don’t you teach 7 days/week?  

Everyone  needs  a  little  break  from  learning  to  process  the  information  and  in  this  case  to  give  muscles a chance to recover.  In addition, you need  to be able to spend time with your family, as does  your  Instructor.      Weekends  are  family  time.  Periodically,  if  weather  or  other  issues  have  caused lessons to be cancelled for numerous days,  your  Instructor  may  choose  to  offer  make  up  lessons  on  a  weekend.    This  is  strictly  up  to  the  Instructor and based on the availability of parents.  


Why  does  it  take  6  weeks  for  my  child  to  learn this? 

The 6 weeks is an estimate that is based on the  average  time  in  which  it  takes  most  children  to  learn  these  survival  skills.    Every  child is  unique  and  ISR’s  Self-Rescue®    program  is  specifically  designed  based  on  your  child’s  individual  strengths  and  needs.    It  is  important  to  realize  that  this  is  an  average  which  means  that  some  children  will  actually  finish  more  quickly  while  others will  need more  practice.    ISR is  dedicated  to safety and,  therefore, we want  to provide your  child  with  the  time  and  best  opportunity  to  become  proficient  in  his/her  survival  skills.   We will always honor your child’s needs.   


Do  you  have  children  that  just  can’t  learn  the  skills? 

No.  Every child can learn.  It is my job to Find the best way  to communicate  the information so  that  it makes sense to the child.   I set your child up to be  successful  every  time.    I start  at  your  child’s  skill level and set her up for success every lesson.    


What other  benefits  do  the  ISR  lesson  experience provide students? 

Every  child  is  unique.  However,  many  parents  report  that  once  their  young  children  have  mastered  learning  to  swim,  the  resulting  confidence  in  their  abilities  engenders  a  positive  self-concept  that  is  often  demonstrated  in  other  aspects  of  their  personalities.  There are also  obvious health and other psychological gains. 




How do you know there is no water going into  a  child’s  lungs?  Will a child aspirate  water  during lessons and have a dry drowning later?  

If  the  child  were  to  get  water  in  his  mouth  and  swallow  some,  the  epiglottis,  a  flap  of  cartilage  which  lies  behind  the  tongue  in  front  of  the  entrance to the larynx, closes by a reflexive action  over  the  tube  leading  to  the  lungs  and  prevents  aspiration  just  as  it  does  if  they  were  drinking  water  from a  cup  or a  bottle.   The  typical  child’s  anatomy  is  set  up  so  that  if  the  volume  and/or  speed  of  air/water  entering  the  throat  is  more  dense than air, then the epiglottis, by default, will  send it  to  the stomach and not  to  the lungs.   The  exception to this rule is if a person is unconscious  at which point the involuntary reflex of breathing  will take over.   Every child is regularly monitored throughout  lessons  to  ensure  that  he/she  is  not  taking in water.  


Are children tired after lessons? 

The  lessons  are  only  10  minutes  long  each  day.  The children work hard at learning to swim so we  teach them to lie down on their towel and rest for  a  few  minutes  after  each  lesson.  They  are  temperature  fatigued,  not  yet  physically  fatigued  and they need to readjust to gravity.  


Are  there health concerns with having babies,  who are not potty trained, in the pool?  

Students swim with a double layer of protection in  the  form washable  swim  diapers.  The  disposable  swim  diapers  do  not  contain  urine  or  feces  effectively.    Each  child’s  bowel  and  urine  habits  are  charted  on  a  BUDS  sheet  such  that  lesson  times  can  be  scheduled  accordingly.  Children  swim  for  10  minutes  or  less  each  day,  in  water  that is less than 88 degrees F.    


Why do we have to bring 3 towels every day? 

In a word, safety.   There is truly a reason for each  towel.  The bottom towel protects your child from  anything  that  could  be  on  the  pool  deck,  germ  safety.   The  second  towel  protects  the  deck  from  anything that might come off your child.  The third  towel is to dry and warm your child.  


Could my child vomit during lessons? 

Our goal is that no child ever vomits.   However, it  does occasionally happen.   Most often  this is due  to feeding issues.  We ask parents to avoid feeding  children  for  1.5-2  hours  prior  to lessons  because  having  food in  the stomach while learning breath  holding  can  cause  discomfort.    When  a  child  is  first  learning  to  hold  his/her  breath,  he/she  will  often swallow some air which can cause big burps.  If a burp gets under food remaining in the tummy, it  can  cause  vomiting.    For  this  reason,  we  ask  parents to maintain B.U.D.S. sheets accurately and  follow  the  eating  guidelines  outlined  for  your  children.  Registration & B.U.D.S You  have  registration  forms,  updates,  BUDS  sheets  and  sometimes  need  medical  releases  to allow a child to participate in this program. 


Why is there so much paper work? Who  looks  at all this stuff?   

SAFETY.  At  ISR,  safety  will  always  come  before  convenience.  While  it  is  a  fair  amount  of  paperwork,  any  program  that  involves  the  safety  and  well- being  of  infants  and  young  children  needs to be conscientious and very thorough. The  ISR medical team, consisting of an on-staff team of  registered  nurses,  review  the  information  from  the  registration  form  and  provide  feedback  to  your child’s Instructor so that he/she can provide  the safest possible lessons for your child.     


Why  can’t  children  have  anything  to  eat  or  drink for 2 hours before lessons?  

First  off,  no  one  works  well  on  a  full  stomach.  Your child is going to be working hard in lessons.  We  want  them  to  be  comfortable.    In  addition,  when  children  are  first  learning  to  hold  their  breath,  they often swallow air.    If you get a lot of  air  in  your  stomach  it  will  often  come  out  as  a  burp.    If  there is  food in  there as well  the air can  get  under  that  food  and  bring  them  up  together.  That  isn’t  fun  for  any  of  us,  especially  the  baby.  Once  again,  we  want  to  set  the  child  up  for  success.    In  this  case,  we  want  them  to  be  comfortable so they can focus on the task at hand. 


Why can’t children have apples? 

This  is  often  a  tough  one  for  parents  because  many children are introduced to apples early and  most  juices  contain  some  apple  juice  as  an  ingredient.  The reason we ask that you don’t feed  your  child  apples  for  the  duration  of  lessons  is  because apples cause gas.   Apples metabolize at a  temperature  of  104  degrees.    This is  the  same  temperature that they ferment at.  This gas causes  the child to be uncomfortable and feel full and no  one works well on a full stomach.




How  can  you  teach  babies  and  young  children to swim?

ISR  instructors  teach  infants  to  swim  by  honoring each child's individual strengths and  experiences .  The understand the fundamentals of the behavioral sciences, child  development and of sensori-motor learning as  it relates to the acquisition of aquatic survival  skills;  they  use  this  education  to  guide  each  child  through  the  sequence  of  learning  to  swim and float.


Can you  really  teach  a  child  who  is  not  verbal how to swim?

Yes.   Consider  that children learn  to sit, crawl  and walk before they learn to speak.   Because  we  teach  through  sensori-motor  learning,  verbal  skills  are  not  required  for  a  child  to  acquire ISR Self-Rescue® skills.  We are able to  communicate with our students through touch  and  positive  reinforcement  while  striving  to  set  our  students  up  for  success  every  step  of  the way.    


How  do  you  teach  them  to  hold  their  breath? 

Breath  holding  skills  are  taught  in  the  first  lesson.  We shape  breath  control  using  highly  effective  positive  reinforcement  techniques.  We continue to reinforce these breath-holding  techniques throughout every lesson.    


How is  it  that  babies  can  learn  to  respond  to the danger of water when they fall in? 

A baby does not need to perceive danger or be afraid  to  respond appropriately  to  being  underwater.  If a  baby  has learned  to  roll  over  and float when he needs air, he doesn't need to  perceive  danger  in  order  to  respond  in  this  manner.  He needs skill, practice  and  confidence to calmly deal with the situation.


Is it the baby fat that makes them float?  Actually, the primary factor in a baby’s ability to float is the ability to take air into the lungs.   To maintain this access to air, the child must adjust his/her posture.  The difference in positioning for an adult can be inches.  For a baby, this adjustment is reduced to  centimeters.  If a child’s body posture is just a few centimeters off, it can make the difference between the face being submerged or the child  having access to air. 


Can’t babies swim naturally? 

Unfortunately,  babies  cannot  naturally  swim.  If  this  were  the  case,  there  wouldn’t  be  so  many  drownings  every  year.  According  to  the  Center  for  Disease  Control  and  Accident  Prevention,  drowning  is  the  leading  cause  of  accidental  death  for  children  ages  1-3  in  the  United States.   




Why don’t parents participate  in  the water  during the lessons?

We do not want the baby  to initially associate  the water with play and fun. Also, it  takes  incredible  concentration  and  objectivity  to  teach  the  baby  how  to  respond  to  an  aquatic  emergency  and  our  research  shows  that  parents  often  find  it  too  difficult  to  be  objective  to  be  effective  teachers  with  their  own children in the water.  Later in your child's session, we will bring you in the water to learn to be comfortable with being in the water without interfering with your child's skills.  


Do  parents  have  to  leave  during  the  lessons? 

 No way!    You  are  truly  the  best  cheerleader  your  child  could  have.    Your  positive  support  and  encouragement  is  invaluable  to  creating  an  effective learning environment for your child.  



How do the kids react during the first few lessons?

Children often fuss during the first few lessons because they are in a new environment and  around new people. As your child becomes  more confident in his/her ability in the water,  the fussing will decrease.  It is not unlike the first time you tried a new  exercise class, or were asked to perform a task  at work that you’d never done before: the first  time you try a new task it is always  challenging, until you get the hang of it. It is the same for your young child. Your child is learning to perform a skill that he/she’s never  done before.  


Will my  child  fear  the  water  because  of  lessons? 

There is  an  important  difference  between  being fearful, and being apprehensive because  you are not  yet skilled in a new environment.  ISR is not like  traditional swim lessons; it is a  drowning  prevention  program  that  teaches  survival  swimming.  Sometimes  as  a  parent,  you  make  choices  for  your  child’s  safety,  like  sitting in a car seat, because you know they are  important. The same can be said for ISR.     Once  competent in  their  skills, many  children  cannot  be  dragged  away  from  the  pool.  They  are having entirely too much FUN.     


Why do the babies cry?  

Babies  don’t  yet  have  the  verbal  skills  to  express themselves, and crying is a completely  normal  reaction  for a  young  child who is in a  new and challenging situation. However, as the  child’s  skills  increase  in  the  pool,  the  fussing  will decrease. 




What does  it mean  that  ISR  lessons  are  an  additional layer of protection?

Constant, undivided ,  100   effective  supervision  would  be  the  only  sure  way  to  eliminate drowning.  Unfortunately, as parents we know  this  simply  is  not  realistic.    Infants  and  toddlers  love  to  explore,  and  with  everything  else  that  goes  on  in  our  lives,  as  parents,  we  can  get  distracted.  A  moment’s  inattention  can  allow  a  child  to  move  out  of  our line of sight.   This is not a failure, it is just  part of our busy lives.     This brings us  to  the  next layer  of  protection,  pool fences.   Pool fences exist so that should a  child escape a  parent’s  supervision,  there is a  barrier  between  the  child  and  the  pool.    We  know that children are drawn to water, but we  don’t want them to be able to get to the water  alone.    Unfortunately, pool  fences  are  only  as  effective if they are used correctly EVERY time.  Because many are not set up to be self-closing  and  self-latching,  they  allow  for  a  high  likelihood  of  human  error.    Even  if  they  are  self-closing  and  self-latching,  if  there  is  not  regular  maintenance,  then  they  can  fail.  Another  aspect  that  is  often  highly  underestimated is  the intelligence of children.  A  child  needs  only  a  chair  or  a  small  table  to  climb  on  to  emulate  opening  the  gate  and/or  climbing over pool fencing rendering even the  best pool fence, useless.      The  fact  that drowning is  the leading cause of  accidental death  for children under  the age of  four  is  a  grim  testament  to  the  fact  that  traditional  approaches  can,  and  do,  fail.  ISR’s  Self-Rescue®  program  exists  so  that,  when  other  protective  measures  break  down,  your  child can save himself.      If  fences  were  required  around  all  pools...then  the  baby  wouldn’t  have  to  go  through the lessons?   Fences  should  be  required  around  all  pools.  However, it is not possible to fence every body  of  water,  or  to  predict  where  and  when  supervision will break down.     


What is the ISR position on floaties and life  jackets? 

Flotation devices give children a false sense of  security  and  hold  them  in  postures  that  are  not compatible with swimming skills. If a child  learns  that  he  can  jump  in  the  water  and  go  into  a  vertical  posture  and  he  will  be  able  to  breathe,  he  is  getting  the  wrong  idea  about  that  environment.  Flotation devices  are  for  children  who  cannot  swim.  Children,  who  cannot  swim,  should  not  be  allowed  to  learn  that it is safe to play in the water while relying  on a crutch. Life jackets must be worn in a boat  or  around  the  water  when  there  is  the  potential  for  a  submersion  as  a  result  of  an  accident  i.e.  a  boat  collision  or  capsize;  they  are not a  substitute  for  the ability  to  swim  or  for adult supervision. 


Does this program give parents a false sense of security and raise the risk of a  child drowning? 

In addition to educating infants and young  children, ISR also teaches parents that there is  "no substitute for adult supervision" and “No  child is drown proof.”  If a child needs his/her  ISR Self-Rescue® skills, it means what should  be several layers of defense have failed.  The  first goal is that the child is never able to  access the water alone.  ISR lessons are the last  line of protection such that, should all else fail,  your child has a chance at helping him/herself  by using the survival skills they were taught.  

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