Local company's focus is keeping babies, toddlers safe in water
MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) -- An average of ten people across the United States die every day in drowning accidents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children under the age of 4 are most at risk.
So how can concerned parents manage that risk and help keep their children safe?
There is a specialized set of lessons taught by dedicated the dedicated swim coaches of Infant Swimming Resource.
On a beautiful spring day in Mount Pleasant, the pool at East Shore Athletic Club is surrounded by parents and children eager to learn the skills that could help save their lives.
Small toys are scattered in the clear waters; a bag of cookies are presented to wide-eyed children teeming with excitement to get their reward for a job well done.
Music plays from a Bluetooth boom box. Today's top choice the sound track to the Disney smash hit Frozen.
The man in charge of the playlist and the lesson plan, Clint Avery surveys the parents and jumps in the pool eager to prevent another child from going under on to never resurface.
For the last few years, Avery's company Infant Swimming Resource has compiled over 800 letters, emails and phone calls from parents whose children fell into a body of water and made it out alive using the skills learned during their intensive six-week course.
The student roster for day's lesson includes a 10-month-old, several 3 year olds and a 4-year-old. All have different levels of swimming experience. The challenge for Avery is to teach each and every child in his care how to stay afloat in an unforgiving environment.
"We call it the swim-float-swim technique," Avery boasts. "Children will swim face down, eyes open, roll to their back, float, catch your breath, and continue swimming."
On the surface it sounds easy, just like any other swimming lesson. But the trick is communicating safety tips to a child too young to speak.
Avery likens the process to learning how to crawl. He says young swimmers in the class have already developed sensory motor skills necessary to stay afloat. The trick is getting them comfortable in the water and easing their fears.
The individual lessons begin with simple breathing techniques. Smaller swimmers are taught to float on their backs and breathe normally without going under.
More experienced children are taught the swim-float-swim technique with their eyes open under the water. The final step of the class teaches kids how to swim and float long enough to get to safety.
The classes are an extra layer of protection against what Avery calls any parent's nightmare scenario.
"We have a pond behind us," one parent said. "We have a fence but you never know, and I was always worried that she could just fall in to it."
It's a concern Avery says is all too real living in a coastal community.
"A pool is deadlier than a loaded gun in a house," Avery said. "Not to mention all these new neighborhoods have manmade ponds. We have two large lakes just here in the Lowcountry, rivers and a huge Atlantic ocean."
Mix one of those abundant bodies of water with a child's natural curiosity and you have a recipe for disaster.
"It's easy to slip away and they can fall in the water. It only takes seconds to get away and only minutes to drown," he said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 70 percent of all accidental fall-ins happen when a child is being watched by at least two adults.
"It just gives you chills to know that you could be there or someone else is watching your kid," Erika Spottier said while keeping a vigilant eye on her two kids."You step away for a second and the worst happens."
Asprotti and her 10-month-old daughter and young son are several weeks into the ISR course.
She says her kids are constantly exposed to water living in the Lowcountry.
"Our neighborhood has a pool. If you live near the marsh and plenty of different ponds, and my parents have a pool at their house and they live right on the Wando RiveSpottierotti said.
Just several lessons into the program little Louisa is already floating on her back and breathing on her own. It's peace of mind for any parent.
"It makes me feel so reassured," Spottier said. "I wondered my first day, 'Is she too young?' But when I see her in the water, I really know we made the right decision."
The class itself consists of six weekly individualized lessons.
Avery says it's a surreal moment when a child who starts off scared and crying in a pool is able to swim on his or her own.
"The parents get choked up, I get choked up," He said. "It's wonderful to know when I go to work I am preventing another child from drowning."
Nikki Cates' daughter Emmy completed the course last year and came back for a one week refresher. Emmy can now swim by herself over short distances.
Cates says it been a joy to watch Emmy progress and the lesson ISR provide put her fears to rest.
"They understand that there are dangers in the water which is something kids aren't born with and understand yet, this teaches them fun and the safety aspect," she said.
To learn more about Infant Swimming Resource and how to sign up for lessons click here: http://www.infantswim.com/lessons/isr-lessons.html