We have completed and graduated from ISR, and I could not be more proud of my little swimming baby! I wanted to share a recap of our experience, to help spread the word about this option of pediatric aquatic safety. ISR is the safest provider of survival swimming lessons for children 6 months to 6 years of age. The ISR program teaches aquatic problem solving skills through highly effective, specialized survival swimming lessons. I am incredibly impressed with the program, and I can’t believe how well my sweet girl has done! She can confidently jump in the water on her own, swim until she can flip over and float on her back, and she can also swim to the side of the pool to hold on until someone reaches her. It is truly incredible, and I am so happy we made the choice to do ISR swim lessons!
ISR stands for Infant Swimming Resource (in case you are like me and need to know what things stand for!) and the ISR Self-Rescue™ method teaches infants and young children to save themselves should they accidentally reach the water alone, as well as recreational swim skills to children developmentally ready. We are all human, and no one ever plans for an accident. My parents have a pool, and we spend a lot of time around water in the summer. Even with the best of safety precautions (fences, alarms and of course supervision) it only takes a moment of distraction for a tragedy to occur. I have had too many people reach out and tell me they wish a child in their life had done this program, and maybe their story would be different.
I did not know about ISR until my cousin told me about it, and I want to make sure as many parents as possible know about this option! I very vividly remember holding my tiny, two week old baby, and seeing a story on the news about a toddler drowning in the backyard pool. It absolutely broke my heart, and I knew right then I would do anything I could to help Cameron know how to swim. Any advantage I can give my baby to help her be more comfortable in the water, and the skills to save herself if she should ever fall in alone, I’m gonna do it!
We started the program when Cameron was 14 months old. She had been around the water a lot at my parents’ pool, so I would say her comfort level with the water may have been a little more than other babies who aren’t yet used to the water. One of the most common questions I have been asked is “does she cry” and the answer is yes, she did cry a lot the first week, but she hardly cried the second! It’s always hard to hear your baby cry, but it is important to remember that crying is the only form of communication that babies have. A crying baby, is a breathing baby! I will also note that I do have a more gentle parenting style, and I was not a CIO mama. I say this to help you understand that it was never uncomfortable for me to watch her be upset at swim, ever. If it had been I would have stopped, but I always felt very comfortable with our instructor, and the program.
How often, and how long are classes?
ISR does require a commitment from you, and classes are 5 days a week, for 10 minutes at a time. You can usually expect about 25-25 lessons (6-7 weeks). Consistency and repetition are necessary components of learning, and research shows that this 10-minute window of learning provides the safest, most effective lesson possible for infants and young children. It took Cameron 6 weeks to complete the program, and we were very happy with her progress. Once we got into the swing of things, going everyday wasn’t a big deal at all, we actually miss it!
Does ISR take the place of a puddle jumper?
I know this may sound a little counterintuitive, but puddle jumpers and floatation devices are not recommended/encouraged unless on a boat, and in the lake or the ocean. If on the boat, or in the lake or the ocean, ISR does recommend a US Coast Guard Certified life jacket, as required by the US Coast Guard. Flotation devices, when used for recreational swim, hold the child up vertically in the water, reinforcing a posture not conducive for recreational and survival swimming. Swimming and floating require a horizontal posture in the water, so using a floatation device would hinder your child from learning to effectively swim and float. No child is drown proof, so it is still extremely necessary to take all the proper safety precautions when playing around the water (fences, supervision, etc). Even with ISR taught skills, effective supervision and a safe pool environment are the first two lines of defense against drowning. If these defenses fail, the person closest to the problem–the child–must know how to survive an aquatic accident.
When did Cameron start ISR, and what is the recommended age?
Cameron was 14-1/2 months when we started ISR. ISR lessons are available for children 6 months to 6 years in age, so not just for babies! I actually wanted to start in the spring so she would be ready for summer, but Covid happened of course! We decided to go ahead and do it now, and then if we need to do a refresher course before next summer then we will! It was just important to me to go ahead and get her started.
Do you worry about her drinking water?
Breath control is the first priority, so they never progress through any skills until the child can hold their breath. Cameron does the funniest thing and sticks her tongue out underwater to keep the water out of her mouth, it is hilarious! But after class I sit and burp her to try to help release any air that got trapped, babies will sometimes take a big gulp of air in preparation to hold her breath right before submerging. She does a really good job of holding her breath when she knows she’s about to go under water, I am so proud of her.
Did she cry?
This was a very popular question!I answered it a little above, but I wanted to include it here as well. No one likes to hear their baby cry of course, I swear it hits us mama’s like a dagger straight to the heart!! I’ll be honest, she cried the entire time of every lesson the first week. I don’t think I could have done it when she was any younger, back when my hormones were still a mess because it would have just killed me! But it really wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. It’s important to remember that your child is NOT crying because she is hurt, or afraid, or being forced to do something she’s not capable of doing, it is just new! She doesn’t have the verbal skills yet to communicate her feelings, so crying is how she communicates. She was just a little mad at first, but I swear to you this second week, we have only had a few tears, and even several smiles!! It just takes a little getting used to for them. And like they say in ISR, “a crying child is a breathing child!”
Is it terrifying at first to see your baby dunked underwater?
Just to clarify, they do NOT just throw your baby in the water and let them figure it out, at all! Your baby will never be thrown in the water. The first week is all about building rapport with your child. The goal is to encourage your child to do more and more with each lesson, but always within the boundaries of their physical abilities and their cognitive and emotional learning capacities. Cameron was pretty used to the water, so her going underwater wasn’t super shocking to either of us.
Is there a better time of year to start classes?
The sooner the safer! However, winter time is when you will usually see the best retention rate. It’s crucial to have consistency in what is being reinforced, specifically while your instructor is shaping their skills. In the winter, there is no outside “interference” if you will, from swimming on the weekends. Lessons don’t end after the session, so if your child graduates in the winter, they can continue in lessons, coming periodically throughout each month to maintain their skills until they can practice at home in the summertime. We will continue to do monthly maintenance lessons, we are thinking maybe 1 a week! Cameron loves the pool so much, I want to continue with her progress.
What kind of training do the instructors go through?
Each ISR Instructor undergoes at least 40 hours of in-water training before becoming certified to teach. ISR Instructors study and are tested in the subjects of child psychology, learning theory, physiology, and the behavioral sciences. Cheri Slay is who teaches ISR in Lexington and she is wonderful! She is calm, knowledgeable, and very professional. I felt very comfortable the first time I met her. It is clear that she loves what she does and is passionate about helping prevent pediatric drownings. Cameron loves her too (and her rubber duck toys) so we are happy girls!
Why do they make them swim in their clothes?
The last week of classes, your child will swim in full clothing to practice swimming and floating with the added weight of clothes and shoes. The reason for this is because if your child were to fall in unattended, it is likely they would be in their clothes, so this helps them practice how that feels.
What is the cost?
If you want to find out more about ISR, this link will take you to the website which goes into a little more detail about the cost. There are some registration fees, medical and developmental screening, as well as a weekly fee that you can find in the link above. Lesson fees are paid weekly, so each family only pays for the lesson duration their individual child needs.
I am so glad that we made the commitment to do ISR. What a wonderful gift to give to a child. I feel so much better knowing that Cameron not only loves the water, but has the skills to save herself if she should ever fall in alone. It truly only takes a moment of distraction for something horrific to happen. I remember tearing up on one of her last days when I saw that she was able to float, in full clothing, for over a minute. A minute you all!! That minute could be the minute between life and death. It is just so important to me to help other parents know about this option for aquatic safety. If by sharing our experience, I can help one child, then that is a really great thing.
If you want to learn more about ISR, please visit the website here! I am also linking the FAQ page that will help answer some more commonly asked questions! You can also see lots of photos and videos on the ISR Lexington instagram page! I have also included a video below documenting our experience, and I also have an entire highlight for ISR on instagram. I definitely cried making this video, I just love her so much and could not be more proud. Thank you ISR for creating such a wonderful program, and for being such advocates for pediatric drowning prevention!
(** This is my disclaimer that as with any parenting decision, you should always do your own research and choose what you think is best for you and your family. After speaking with our pediatrician, this is what we chose to do, and we could not be happier with the program, the instructor, and the results. I was not paid to post this or any of my views about the program, I was however, gifted our sessions.)