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Water babies

Classes teach infants, toddlers water survival skills

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Water babies

About 20 children ages 6 months to 6 years old are learning how to become “little aquatic problem solvers” at Twin Rivers Recreation.

“ISR teaches them how to self-rescue,” said Stacy Humble, a certified Infant Swimming Resource (ISR) program instructor. “In six weeks, these children will be equipped to save themselves.”

The ISR program provides survival swimming lessons for infants and toddlers. The classes teach self-rescue skills training, and the program boasts a 100-percent safety record of successfully training more than 175,000 children.

Humble, who is from the Jackson area, began teaching ISR classes at Twin Rivers a couple of weeks ago. The program will continue through March 29.

Water babies

Ann Pinder Singh smiles after a successful swimming class with Stacy Humble. 

“Sometimes, everything we do is not enough to keep a child from drowning,” said Humble. “Even with alarms, door locks, pool fences and supervision, children can escape from protective care and find themselves in trouble. At ISR, we arm children with the skills to survive if they were to accidentally end up in the water alone.”

The program integrates swimming skills that are developmentally appropriate for young children, teaching them to save their own lives, while building the confidence that can lead to a lifelong love of being in the water.

Humble holds 10-minute lessons for each participant every day.

“It’s based on each individual child’s stage of development,” said Humble.

Humble has taught rehab swimming for 14 years. She received her ISR master instructor certification at the University of Alabama and has been teaching infants and toddlers for the past two years. Humble is one of three ISR certified instructors in the state.

Based on age, the participants are trained either to float or to be swim-float swimmers. Infants younger than 12 months learn to hold their breath under water, roll onto their backs and float unassisted. Children age 1 and over, learn how to hold their breath under water, swim with their head down and eyes open, roll onto their back to float, rest and breathe and roll back over to resume swimming until they reach the side of the pool and can crawl out. Once skilled, children practice these techniques fully clothed.

“This is based on muscle memory,” said Humble. “They retain it just like you retain learning how to ride a bike. You can get on a bike 10 years from now, and you’re still able to ride that bike. A child can fall in the water, and they automatically know what to do.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 4.

“I knew we had a lot of drownings,” said Humble. “Until I got my ISR instructor certification, I never realized how many.”

Infant Swimming Resource was founded in 1966 by Dr. Harvey Barnett. His self-rescue training has been proven to help young children survive in a drowning scenario. Nationally recognized as the safest provider of swimming lessons for children, the program has 788 documented cases of a child’s self-rescue using ISR techniques.

During the first ISR classes, most of the babies cry.

“This place is new, the water is new, and even if they love the water, they don’t know me,” said Humble. “The more confident they get in the water, you see less and less crying. With the little bitty babies, you don’t want to keep them from crying, because how else are you going to know they are in the water?”

Many of Humble’s tiny swimmers, however, are quickly learning how to navigate through the water.

Kaisen Hodges, 17 months old, is learning how to swim-float.

His mother, Lindsay Hodges, said Kaisen would cry during the first week of lessons. By the end of his second week, however, Kaisen had gained confidence in the water.

“It is amazing to me the breath control he’s learned,” said Lindsay. “He knows if his head is still under the water he is to hold his breath and not breathe in.”

Water babies

From left are Lindsay Hodges, her son, Kaisen Hodges, and Infant Swimming Resource instructor Stacy Humble. Kaisen is learning to how to hold his breath under water, swim with his head down and roll onto his back to float. 

For Lindsay and her husband, Hunter Hodges, the program’s availability in their hometown is “a blessing.”

“Years ago, my husband actually had a niece who drowned,” said Lindsay. “So Kaisen being able to swim and save himself in case he was to fall in a swimming pool — or my grandmother lives on the creek, and my other grandmother has a swimming pool — it’s very important to us.”

Ten-month-old Ann Pinder Singh is learning to float.

“She’s gotten a lot better,” said her father, Jason Singh.

Ann Pinder has homework where rather than sitting up in the bathtub, she leans back on a towel. Humble said that being horizontal in the water, rather than vertical, babies learn facing the air-side up is their security when in the water.

Debbie Oxnam, the general manager of Twin Rivers, said the building of the indoor Eleanor Steele Hardeman Therapy and Exercise Pool gave the recreation center the opportunity to hold swimming classes, such as the ISR program.

“I’ve been a swimming teacher for 52 years, and I know the importance of swimming,” said Oxnam. “I also know every child learns to swim at a different pace.”

Humble will return next year for another six-week training program.

“I’ve watched it and have been amazed,” said Oxnam. “I think the parents have been extremely receptive to it. ... These children learning to swim like this will also feed into the swimming program here at Twin Rivers. Stacy has given me some transition pointers to keep these children on track.”

For more information about Infant Resource Swimming, visit www.infantswim.com.

For more information about Twin Rivers, call 453-4969.

Contact Ruthie Robison at 581-7233 or rrobison@gwcommonwealth.com.

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