AUSTIN (KXAN) - Kids under 4 years old are 14 times more likely to die in a swimming pool than in a car accident. It’s a staggering statistic that has many local parents turning to a unique type of class to teach babies how to save themselves from drowning.
"We teach children how if they are faced with an emergency situation in the water which means unsupervised in the water they know how to save themselves," said Robin Bates, a swim instructor with Infant Swimming Resource .
Bates has taught life-saving skills to hundreds of children, some as young as 6 months old. Bates says it’s basic psychology to “teach children under 1 year how to hold their breath, roll over from their stomach to their back, and maintain a survival float for several minutes until help arrives."
Avid boaters Eric Derby and his wife signed up their 7-month-old son.
"We know we're going to be out on the lake with him. We understand the risks that are involved with being on the Highland Lakes, so we want to make sure to take every precaution," Derby said.
It took Ryan only 4 weeks to learn how to hold his breath underwater, and flip over from his stomach to back into what ISR call the "survival float" until help arrives.
"Drowning is called the 'silent killer,' because when young children fall in, they don't make a splash," Bates said. "No one hears them go in, and they don't thrash around on the surface. They tend to just sink to the bottom because they do not have the skills to bring themselves up and get to that survival float
For safety reasons, lessons are only ten minutes long. Older kids learn not only a survival float but also how to swim to safety.
"It certainly gives me a sense of comfort that in that 30 seconds, should I accidentally turn my back on him, that I have that time to go catch him and avoid something horrific happening,” said Jessica Cunningham, whose two young children are in the middle of the six-week course.
Heather Phillips knows the importance of water safety as a commander with Austin-Travis County EMS.
"More than 830 children between the age of 1 and 4 drown every year in the United States,” said Phillips. "Most of the drownings for children under 4 years old do happen in the home pool or hot tub."
While little Ryan's dad never wants to see what his son is learning in ISR classes play out in real life, his hope is that, should the unthinkable happen, Ryan will have a fighting chance at survival.
"It's great! It's amazing to watch that basic instinct in him and how that takes over," Derby said.
Just this week, the American Academy of Pediatrics said there is new evidence that swimming lessons for very young children, ages one to three, can be an effective tool for preventing drownings - but they urge that even advanced swimming skills cannot "drown-proof" a child.
Meanwhile, medical science is relaxing a historic stance against swimming lessons for children younger than 4. A few small studies now suggest toddlers may be less likely to drown if they've had swim lessons.
That's why the American Academy of Pediatrics says it's fine to enroll children as young as 1 in classes. The doctors aren't recommending lessons for every young child. Some parents may feel their little ones aren't ready for the water, and that's OK.
In the past, the group had said swim classes might give toddlers and parents a false sense of security.
There are some simple and very important tools to prevent drownings.
- Closely supervise your children around water.
- Know how to perform CPR.
- If you have a home pool, make sure you have a four-sided fence around it
- Teach your child how to swim.
- The bottom line: No child is drown-proof no matter how good a swimmer they are. Proper supervision and safety-proofing are the only way to keep your child safe around water.
To stay safe in and around water this summer, Great Wolf Lodge , in indoor water park in Grapevine, offers some more tips, including:
- Parents should actively participate in water activities with weak or non-swimming children. Most water-related accidents could be prevented by having a parent within arm’s length.
- Inflatable rafts, swim "floaties," and other inflatable devices are not appropriate life-saving devices. Make sure young children and non-swimmers wear Coast Guard-approved life jackets and ensure the life jacket is fastened properly.
- Enroll children in swim lessons. These lessons teach the basics of water safety and awareness, and kids will learn a valuable life-skill while gaining confidence.
- Stay hydrated and be sure to take regular breaks out of the water to stay alert and avoid fatigue. This is especially important if it is hot or humid, including inside an indoor waterpark.
- Try to swim where there are trained lifeguards on duty. Lifeguards are trained to monitor the water and react to rescue situations, though it's still important for parents to take responsibility for their children in the water. Lifeguards are not babysitters. Parents should also teach