Monday, June 25, 2012

A Close Call

This is a letter sent to us from a USSA family:

It was just another family day in our pool, with Lily sitting on the stairs playing with her water toys. Since starting swim lessons Lily has become more adventurous, and on that day, decided she wanted to float on a raft with her sister. We were excited! While drifitng in the center of our pool, with daddy close by, her older sister playfully flipped the raft and Lily went under and instantly began to sink. In a state of PANIC I was ready to jump in and my husband wasalready swimming to her.

What happened next still has us speechless! That is when we saw Lily pop-up out of the water for air and frantically look for the stairs. Lily then put her arms straight out in front of her (that is the "superman" glide she learned!). She began kicking vigorously until she reached the stairs. Keep in mind it was half the length of
of our pool! Once she was safe, she began coughing for she obviously swallowed water. To our amazement she NEVER cried! When we asked Lily if she was okay, she said yes and went right back in the water! Really?!

My husband and I were in shock! Our Lily used to cry in the bath tub if you splashed water on her face. Now she has the confidence to swim! The fact that she applied what Coach Diane taught her (in under 10 lessons) when in a state of PANIC no less...has my husband and I convinced that what Lily has learned at the US Swim Academy is PRICELESS!!

Since this incident and further lessons with Coach Diane, Lily has a new found passion for swimming. It is going to make this summer all that more fun for our family.

I am sharing this story with all parents so they can see that lessons are a necessity and that they DO work!!
The confidence and trust that Coach Diane has established with our daughter is amazing and has meant so much to us all. We will always be grateful.

Thank you forever, US Swim Academy!!!

The DaGrosa Family
Lily (3 years old)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Sooner Rather Than Later

“I was amazed last week when I had girls over to swim from my daughter’s girl scout troop. Many of these girls had to wear water wings because they couldn’t swim. Their mother’s didn’t even get in the water because they couldn’t swim. I tried to work with the girls and help them and eventually we took off the wings, but some of them need lessons. I really need to find a way to incorporate this into a scout lesson in the fall and get these mother’s in the water as well. I will look for a service that can help us.”

This is a concerned mother’s comment on an article in the Sun Sentinel about the signs of drowning. We have all probably noticed this phenomenon of children not knowing how to swim. The next logical question that should come to mind is: Why? Why don’t they know how to swim yet? Why aren’t these parents enrolling their children in swim lessons?

But, before we go into the why of the matter, let’s look at a different why. Why does it matter that kids get swim lessons? “According to a 2009 study conducted by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Heath and Human Development, children who participate in formal swimming lessons are less likely to drown. The study found that among 61 children ages 1—4 who had died from drowning, only three percent had ever taken formal swimming lessons. By contrast, 26 percent of the children in the general population had received some type of formal lessons. In addition, parent interviews reflected that only five percent of the swimmers who drowned could float on their back for 10 seconds, while 18 percent of those who didn’t drown could float for at least 10 seconds.”

And there are several possible answers to the question of why parents aren’t signing their kids up for swim lessons. But, none of them justify the decision to postpone swim lessons for your child. For some parents, it is just a matter of laziness. They just haven’t gotten around to it, like anything else on their long lists of things to do as a parent. But, this one needs to be moved to the top of the list. We are talking about our children’s lives here.

Cost may be another issue that is keeping parents from getting their children in swim lessons. I’m not going to go into much detail on that reason here, because I have already written a whole piece on it. You can read it here.

Some parents may also be worried for health reasons. They may be wary of the chlorine in the pool affecting their child’s skin, breathing, or allergies. But, it would take an extreme amount of exposure to become a health risk.  Parents might also think children could ingest too much water and that this could also lead to health issues. But, today’s instruction methods are much gentler; children are no longer being plunged into the water at most pools.

Others may also have had bad experiences and may have been scared off of lessons all together. I know that this is the case for me. I am ashamed to say, especially as someone who works for a swim school, that my children have yet to have ongoing swim lessons. And this is mostly due to a bad experience a few years back with an old-school instructor.
But, I am proud to say, my kids are starting swim lessons tomorrow! Better late than never. But, I wish I had started years ago and not given up. My children would be much safer around water and I wouldn’t have to worry as much as I do when they are near water. Summer hasn’t even officially begun and we have already had two days at a pool and one at the beach. These kids need to know how to swim!

So, if you haven’t enrolled your child in swim lessons, think about the reasons. And decide if these reasons are really valid and important enough to postpone teaching your child life-saving skills.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Superhero Swim Instructors

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No! It’s your child’s swim instructor! Swim coaches are not just instructors; they are life-savers. And, as life-savers, they are superheroes, doing the same job that Superman or Batman aims to do. They may not wear red capes or run faster than a speeding bullet, but they are saving children’s lives every day.

By teaching your children how to swim, swim instructors are teaching them to be safer around all kinds of water and situations, from pool parties to beach outings. Children who know how to float, how to swim to the edge of the pool, and how to climb out of the pool can save their own lives. But, really, what saves them is the coaching from their swim instructor. And we all know what a real threat drowning is, especially in our area, as we watch more and more stories of childhood drowning on TV and read them in the newspaper.

But, swimming is not just a life-saving skill; it is a life skill. Think of the countless vacation activities you may engage in that involve water: fishing, boating, canoeing, paddle boarding, surfing, snorkeling, and scuba diving. Children must know how to swim in order to be able to be a part of the fun as they are growing up.

And, many professions your child may choose will require swimming skills and/or will take place near water. Some jobs that require swimming skills are an EMT, fire fighter, the armed services, and the Coast Guard. Ask any parent who does not know how to swim and you will hear how concerned they are about not having water rescue skills. You don’t want your child to grow up without these skills.

And swim instructors are creating some of the superheroes of the future too! Knowing how to swim and swim well will have a significant impact on your child’s choice of careers, living situations, and vacationing. Swim coaches are inspiring children to become swim instructors when they grow up. So, if your child is enrolled in swimming lessons, he or she may live out a dream: to be a super hero one day!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Know the Signs of Drowning

Do you think you would know if your child was drowning? You might be surprised. Drowning doesn’t look or sound the way you expect it to. There is often no splashing, screaming, or waving of hands. Drowning can be a silent killer.

About 375 children drown each year within 25 yards of their parent. In some of these cases, 
according to the Centers for Disease Control, the parent is watching the child, but misses the signs of drowning. As a parent, you need to be aware of the warning signs that your child may be drowning.

When a child is drowning, the respiratory system focuses on breathing first, so it may be impossible for him or her to call out for help. A drowning child is not likely to wave for help either. Their arms will probably be extended laterally in order to press down on the surface of the water. Their arms are therefor too busy to wave.
It may even seem that a drowning child is taking in breaths, because his or her mouth will often go above and below the water. Drowning also occurs very rapidly. It may take just 20 to 60 seconds of struggling before a child’s body submerges below the water.
Other signs to look out for:
Hyperventilating or gasping
Head low in the water, mouth at water level or head tilted back with mouth open.
Legs not moving
Glassy or unfocused eyes

Watching your child while he or she is in the water is not enough; you also have to watch for the signs of drowning.

Find out more here.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Try, Try Again

Remember my daughter, Ruby's, first swimming lesson at USSA? Well, if you recall, it went swimmingly. So, we were excited for the second lesson. But, was Ruby all smiles and giggles this time? No. Actually, that word about sums it up. "No." That was all she would say to any request the swimming coach made. "Blow your bubbles, Ruby." "No!" "Turn over on your back, Ruby." "No!" Now, there's the child I'm used to at home. 

So, this experience, needless to say, was disappointing. I ran into her swimming coach after the lesson and shared my frustration. She assured me that this phenomenon of the second nightmare lesson is very common. Children can sense things, as we all know. So, they know parents' expectations have been raised now and they have more to live up to. She even recommended that, after the first lesson, parents should not overwhelm their little ones with kudos. Kids do not like to disappoint their parents and often shut down rather than let their parents down. Swimming lessons are also just like any other learning experience. There will be gains and set-backs, a step forward and then a step back. Children need time to absorb all that they are learning.

There are several things we, as parents, can do to help make sure the lesson goes as well as possible:

1. For the first lesson, arrive 20 minutes early so that your child can process everything that is going on at the school.

2. Expect your child will have appropriate behaviors. Talk about what is appropriate in the positive - " Ruby, be sure and talk to the teacher using your words so he/she can help you." If you expect a major fiasco of screaming and tears, you probably will get it!  Besides, who says swimming lessons have to be frightening - not us! 

If your child is having a difficult swimming lesson, here are some tips to keep in mind:

1. Children are not built to be put in life threatening situations, real or perceived. Never leave your child alone with an instructor. A very scared child can't learn. If a child believes she is in real danger, the brain uses it fear or fight mechanism which will cause cortisol to be secreted,  which can be harmful.

2. Give the swimming coach the full lesson time if your child is not in terror. Often, the child needs time and the teacher needs time to find which one of her teaching tools will work best with your child. 

Remember, here at USSA, your child is enrolled in developmental lessons. The swimming coach will take into account the child's state of mind and will work from the developmental stage he or she is at.

Not every lesson will be perfect, but not every one will be difficult either. So, remember what we tell our children. Don't give up! Try, try again!

Monday, April 30, 2012

"Quickie" Swimming Lessons: A Big Mistake

The following is a letter written by the executive director of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance, in response to a parent's request for "quickie" swimming lessons:

I heard from the US Swim Academy that you would like to take “quickie” swim lessons. A “guarantee” that your child can roll over or float is not a guarantee that your child will not drown. These lessons merely state that your child can roll over on their back when prompted by the instructor.

There is a big difference between survival lessons (quickie lessons) and water safety lessons. Building skills upon skills in a skills progression that builds one upon the other is the best way for your child to learn, any skill. Just like any other set of skills, like riding a bike or learning to read, you have to start and build your skills level. Once you learn one skill, you repeat and then learn another skill. Think of it like the learning to read. First, you have to learn to say your abc’s, then you learn to recognize the letters, then you learn to start putting the letters together, then your first word is cat. And that takes pretty much all of their first year of preschool. But once they learn these letters, it never leaves them because of the progression of learning. Swimming is exactly the same way.

In order for your child not to panic later in life in any water scenario, they have to have these skill sets ingrained in their memory. I would like to encourage you to rethink the “quickie” solution. Just like in tennis or anything else, you can’t learn any sport/skill in a week. It may take years, but you are building the necessary synapses for your child’s brain to develop into a smarter, more social, more coordinated child.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Cost of Safety

At United States Swim Academy, we can and do reduce the risk of childhood drowning as part of our daily activities. What is that worth to you? Because we often hear that swimming lessons are too expensive. Are they really? If you are willing to spend money on the newest technology or a lavish birthday party for your little one, shouldn’t you be willing to pay the price for your child’s safety?

Invest in your child’s future by completing their water safety and swimming training. Some training is not enough to save your child. Their swimming lessons must be completed if you want to be sure they are safer around water. And these lessons don’t just affect your son or daughter for a short time; completing their training here at USSA ensures a lifetime of water safety and confidence. A party is over in a few hours. An iPod is outdated in a few months. A child’s swimming ability lasts forever.

Something is expensive when it does not deliver value for the money, time, or effort. That is not the definition of our swimming lessons program! We deliver risk-reducing swimming lessons for all children, a pre-swim skill program to increase learning and skill retention, and we offer the lowest student-teacher ratio in Broward County! The risk of drowning is very real in our community. Already this year, four children have died. We are value-packed and we help to prevent the tragedy of childhood drowning.

So, the next time you are planning a trip to Disney or considering purchasing an expensive toy for your little boy or girl, think about the money it costs to save your child’s life here at USSA. Is it worth it? We think so and we know you will agree as well.