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ISR self-rescue swim lessons give children 6 months to 6 years old skills to survive in the water

2:40 PM, May 2, 2012   |    comments
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South Tampa, Florida - It's a scary statistic for parents: Hillsborough County has the highest drowning rate for children under 4 years old.

But there is now a program to make sure not one more child drowns.

In six weeks, five days a week at just 10 minutes a time, your child can learn to float or swim.  It's called ISR self rescue lessons and parents we talked to say these lessons can mean the difference between life and death.

"The first thing you teach is how to close your eyes and open your mouth under water," says Dr. Harvey Barnett, founder of Infant Swimming Rescue, or ISR. He says from there, children learn survival skills in the water.

"For a baby 6 to 12 months, that's a simple act of rolling onto the back and floating. When kids can walk or run, they can learn to swim, float, swim, float, swim, float in a sequence to go a further distance to surviving a situation."

ISR has trained over 250,000 babies in 46 years. It has yet to have a former student drown, and knows 791 children are alive because they used their self rescue skills.

For Ava Gerdeman, simply watching her 12 month old float makes her believe the system works.

"There's always a chance they can slip away and it always takes a short amount of time to get into a dangerous situation. So it makes me much more comfortable knowing that he has that layer of protection."

She learns lessons as well, starting with segmented supervision.

"While you're watching your kids in the water, there's a 20 minute period where you are only watching your kids in the water," says Gerdeman.

Then, parents are told to take a break, close up the pool and let them and the child rest.

"We're trying to bring this initiative for self rescue lessons to be available to every child in this community. We've got to solve this problem," says Barnett.

ISR is partnered with Crossfit Kids and the Tampa Metropolitain Area YMCA to make sure more children have the opportunity to learn these skills.

You can register your child, 6 months to 6 years old for ISR self rescue lessons at the South Tampa YMCA, click here for more information: tampaymca.org.

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