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Safety before Smiles

Young children are inherently curious, inquisitive and don’t generally perceive danger. Therefore, as parents we understand the need to set firm boundaries in order to keep our children safe.

Firm boundaries such as, children must be secure in a car seat at all times in a car. When crossing the road, we would ask the child to hold our hand. Many of these boundaries we implement because they are the law, and/or we know these boundaries keep our children safe. Boundaries which we know affect our child’s safety, which we consistently reinforce and are not negotiable.

We need to mirror these same firm, consistent boundaries in an aquatic environment to increase awareness of everyday risks in, on and around water and positively change behaviours and save children’s lives.

According to Royal Life Saving Drowning Report, in Australia, children under the age of 5 years are at the highest risk of drowning, with home backyard swimming pools the leading location for drowning fatalities.

Strategies for prevention include;

  • Active adult supervision
  • Restricting a child’s access to water
  • Water awareness
  • Resuscitation

With a 56% increase in drownings this summer, it is evident that there is still much to do: the tragedy of accidental drowning, which tears families apart, still exists.

“Many Australian children enter into an aquatic experience without any understanding of their personal capabilities or limitations….It is vitally important we provide children with the opportunity to undertake progressive aquatic skill development that considers the experiences and activities that they may be exposed to in the future and provide them with a core set of skills that can be utilised in times of need.” Royal Life Saving NSW

We need to understand how, where and why children drown in order to address the water safety and survival swimming skills our children must learn to prevent such drownings.

  • 64% of toddler drownings occur when the child is not being supervised
  • Accidental falls into water remain the leading activity prior to drowning among children under 5 years
  • Swimming pools account for 67% of all drowning deaths among children under 5 years of age.
  • The child drowned in the pool at their primary residence in 71% of cases

Water safety education is vital.  The skills taught need to be realistic for the chid, given their age and aquatic environment. They need to learn to respect the water and have a realistic understanding of their limits and capabilities.

At Kids Aquatic Survival School, we believe, the focus on “SWIMMING” lessons needs to shift to SURVIVAL lessons. Children need to learn how to SURVIVE in water before they learn to SWIM in it. If a child is always held in the water or uses flotation devices, it can create a false sense of security leading to over confident child with little or no water competence. Water confidence without competence is a dangerous combination.

We teach water competence with a strong focus on survival as the best foundation for a child’s water safety education. We believe teaching survival skills today provides children with a safer tomorrow, so as they are graduating through life from childhood to adolescence, they understand their limitations and don’t over estimate their abilities.

At KASS, competence in survival means the ability to independently;

  • recover from a fall into water
  • roll from front to back
  • float and maintain a back float for at least 60 seconds
  • swim and float in a sequence until they reach safety (if walking age)

We appreciate when teaching life-saving skills such as survival and learn to swim that tears and tantrums may occur. We know that sometimes those tears are often because the child is in a new environment, around new people, tired, unwell or just generally having a bad day. Most children express this emotion through crying and depending on age this may be the child’s only form of communication.

Some children might resist and exert independence in survival swimming lessons, much like when you buckle your child in a car seat. It is a safety precaution, giving your child the best possible chance of survival. Teaching your child boundaries and behavioural expectation in water is just as important as out of water safety precautions. Understanding and validating those feelings can create a positive change in a child’s mood allowing for a progressive lesson. In time as skills are mastered and children learn to manage in the water, the pool no longer seems like such an overwhelming and scary place because the skilled child now poses a level of understanding and confidence.

Eventually the tears fade and are replaced with smiles but more importantly the skills to survive.

 

Barbara’s story

Barbara is a 3.5 year old girl from the Philippines. She is from a non-English speaking family and came to Australia only six months ago.

Back home, Barbara experienced a non-fatal drowning incident which involved falling into a body of water. Her mother watched helplessly as she herself could not swim and was unable to rescue her. Thankfully a neighbour moved swiftly and jumped to Barbara’s rescue.

In the Philippines, drowning is a leading killer with an average of 3,276 deaths per year. Many children live near open water sources, such as ponds, irrigation channels, rivers or have uncovered open wells. More children aged 5-14 years die from drowning than from any other cause.

Fatal and non-fatal drownings are not accurately reported in the Philippines as many low and middle-income families cannot afford medical bills associated with hospitalisation and funerals.

Just two months after arriving in Australia, Barbara’s mother enrolled her into the Survival and Learn to Swim Program with Kids Aquatic Survival School (KASS).

In just five weeks, Barbara learnt to roll from front to back to breathe and remain in a floating breathing posture until help arrives. She further learnt to roll back to front and swim and repeat this sequence of swimming and floating until she reaches safety or the edge.

Barbara learnt all of this with Kids Aquatic Survival School in 25 lessons and remarkably without speaking or understanding English.

That’s what makes the KASS Survival and Learn to Swim Program so unique. The skills Barbara learnt are taught through non-verbal prompts and procedures. So, should Barabra ever find herself in an aquatic emergency, she knows to respond to the environment not the instructor. Barbara is not a strong swimmer, but she now understands when faced with a dangerous aquatic environment, to float calmly and not panic.

Before Barbara and her mother return home to the Philippines, Mum is continuing to reinforce the survival skills with Barbara and also learning to swim here in Australia. Both mother and child can then translate these life-saving survival skills to their community back home and help further educate everyone on the importance of water safety.

Because, together education and skills are vital in achieving zero drownings.

 

Aquatic Behaviour

Water safety is an attitude that is built up through repeated experiences. Therefore, BEHAVIOUR in and around water is very IMPORTANT.

The commonly referred terms include head first entries, jumping entries both of which encourage the child to jump and submerge into water whilst the instructor or parent rescues them.

The association of “1,2,3 jump” and I will catch you, is creating a DANGEROUS behaviour for children in and around water. Furthermore, teaching children to associate nursery rhymes and songs such as “humpty dumpty” whilst they fall into the water and rescued by their parents is giving children a false sense of security, because what happens when the parent is not there to catch them?

Children are inherently curious and inquisitive. They don’t perceive danger or have the knowledge to assess an environment to be safe or unsafe. As parents/carers, educators and as a community it is our job to protect them. That doesn’t mean we should remove all possible dangers, because that isn’t reality. We need to equip our children with the skills and knowledge to respond appropriately to dangerous situations and environments. Although certain explorative behaviours are normal, parents and caregivers must provide adequate supervision at all times.

In Australia, 100% of toddler drownings occur when the child is not being supervised and nearly 80% of drownings in young children occur due to FALLS INTO WATER. Yes, we need to be introducing children to safe entry practices, but most importantly the child needs to be skilled to SURVIVE in the water BEFORE they are taught to enter independently.

That’s why at Kids Aquatic Survival School we don’t encourage children to jump into water until fully skilled.

 

No Floatation Devices

Floatation devices such as swim vests, arm bands, puddle jumper, water wings or swim trainers are NOT a substitute for supervision. They can give a child a false sense of security in water and create dependant behaviour of being vertical in water.

Unfortunately, the child is not able to stay vertical in the water without them. Infants and children do not have the strength to hold their head up in water. Should they fall into water, which happens to nearly 80% of children who drown, they won’t understand their own buoyancy.

Floatation devices allow children to be in the water for such a long time with their head up, eyes ahead, swimming around comfortably. Then when you take the aids off, they are unable to maintain this posture without them on. Generally speaking most infants that fall into water don’t have these devises on.

At Kids Aquatic Survival School (KASS) we want children to have a realistic perception of what they can do in the water. KASS lessons do not use any floatation devices, aids or goggles when a child is learning the KASS survival and learn to swim program.

WHY?

– Children become accustom to them
– Creates a false sense of security
– Create a dependent behaviour
– They don’t allow the child to understand their buoyancy in the water
– They are comforts kids won’t have if they accidentally fall into a body of water

 

Call 1800 543 779 or email info@infantswim.com.au to learn more and book your child into our accelerated survival program to increase their water safety.

 

#survivalswimming #swimfloatswim #swimfloatsurvive#drowningprevention #kidsaquaticsurvivalschool #nomoredrownings

 

A child’s response to water

Children can respond differently to water.

The article referenced below by North Shore Pediatric Therapy provides a valuable insight into the different sensory stages children experience with swimming, such as;

  1. Motor Planning
  2. Proprioception
  3. Vestibular
  4. Tactile
  5. Auditory

At Kids Aquatic Survival School all instructors are trained in the areas of;

  1. Child development and learning theory
  2. Behavioural science
  3. Anatomy
  4. Physiology and physics as they relate to infants and young children in the aquatic environment.

All KASS lessons are private, one instructor per student. This enables KASS instructors to tailor the lesson to each individual child, based on behaviour and ability. It also maximises the effectiveness of the lesson with 100% swim time and eliminates the distraction other children in the same lesson may have on accomplishing the goal from the lesson.

At KASS, we provide a safe and controlled environment, which allows the child to learn through consistency and positive reinforcement which builds tonnes of confidence!

Call 1800 543 779 to discuss our programs or visit our Lessons and Techniques page

Sensory Strategies for Swimmers

#swimfloatsurvive #competencebuildsconfidence #kidsaquaticsurvivalschool

What are the most suitable swim lessons for my child?

The decision on the type of swim lessons for a child is a personal decision many new and existing parents struggle with and admit to facing hurdles such as location and cost which often override lesson effectiveness or suitability.

Children as young as 6 months, are encouraged to participate in what the industry classifies as “water familiarisation”. These lessons are generally conducted in a group setting with the parents in the water with their child. This is said to create bonding time for parent and baby and provide social interaction with other babies leading to a positive experience for the child’s association with water.

In many cases, the decision to conduct group lessons is based on:
  1. Financial viability as one instructor for 10 babies for 30 minutes is much more cost effective than one on one.
  2. The safety issue of personal liability is transferred to the parent who is the primary carer in the water.

Unfortunately, many of these water familiarisation classes do not equip the child with any aquatic survival skills. At the very core being to roll over and float to breathe.

Often young children enter into an aquatic experience without any understanding of their abilities or limitations, be it a river, ocean, swimming pool or fishpond. It is vitally important that we provide children with the opportunity to undertake progressive aquatic skill development that considers the experiences and activities that they may be exposed to in the future.

The reality is barriers such as supervision and restricting access to water break down. When children fall into a body of water they usually do so fully clothed when they have wandered there unnoticed with no parents around.

IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT SWIMMING, IT’S ABOUT SURVIVAL

In the Survival Program at Kids Aquatic Survival School our main focus is learning to survive, not just swimming. It is now widely accepted that the ability to swim is not enough to save a life. As a nation surrounded by water, learning practical water survival skills at an early age is essential.

That is why at Kids Aquatic Survival School, once the child has completed the Survival program and is fully skilled; the child applies their newly learnt skills in a safe and controlled environment wearing full winter clothing including shoes and nappy. This is a vital step because it is a very different sensory experience swimming or floating in clothes. So should they ever fall into water fully clothed, it won’t be the first time they have performed this skill.

Kids Aquatic Survival School want children to respect the water: not to fear it, but to understand that they have limitations. Acquiring aquatic survival skills is fundamental in the attempt to eliminate drowning.

For more information call 1800 543 779 or visit www.infantswim.com.au

No toys in lessons

At Kids Aquatic Survival School WE DON’T use toys in our Survival and Learn to Swim Program to distract children from crying.

We focus on learning skills that will develop the child’s confidence.

We support the child and work through the real issue as to why they are crying be it lack of skill, separation anxiety or just emotional and tired.

Children communicate through showing emotion.

Crying is accepted in our lessons because we validate how a child feels by allowing them to express themselves, to appreciate they are finding it difficult and to support them through the process.

As the child’s skills improve, the tears fade.

Toys are a distraction and do not validate a child’s feelings.

It is not until children are competent in survival do we introduce dive dudes in our weekly transitional lessons which are not used as a distraction but to develop diving skills, increase breath control and have some fun!

To learn more please visit our lessons and techniques page or call 1800 543 779.

Swimming older children

We have many children aged 5 years + that come to KASS from years of traditional swimming lessons. Some have been taught:
1. Wearing floatation devices
2. With Parents in the water with them
3. Wearing goggles
4. In a vertical swimming position. Whereby the child lifts their head to breathe and generally swims in a vertical position rather than horizontally.

The above-mentioned are aids we do not use in our KASS survival program and therefore when the child commences lessons with KASS, they might be out of their comfort zone initially. Once these bad habits (if any) have been overcome, we find older children progress very quickly as they are usually already water aware.

When infants and young children commence swimming lessons with KASS we encourage them to roll over to float for every breath. With older children they may not need to roll over for every breath as they have the strength to lift their head. We therefore, encourage the child to swim horizontally with their head down in the water, take a breath and again head down to swim.

Older children still need to be able to hold and maintain a floating position in order to rest if safety or the edge is too far to swim continuously. This enables the child to break up a large swim distance into shorter more frequently swims.

In addition, older children may refuse to open their eyes under water without goggles. At KASS we want children to be comfortable to swim without goggles and they are not permitted whilst undertaking survival training. The reasoning behind this is should a child accidentally fall into water, they may not be wearing goggles and we want the child to not panic and open their eyes to see where the steps, edge or safety is.

Further details on why KASS say no to goggles is explained in our most recent blog ‘No Goggles’

Call 1800 543 779 or email info@infantswim.com.au to book your child into our accelerated survival program to increase their water safety.

No Bubble Blowing

AT KASS we DON’T teach children to Blow Bubbles in lessons

Why? It is unsafe for an infant to blow bubbles as this dramatically limits the time they could hold their breath if they ever got into trouble. They also need air in their lungs for buoyancy.

At KASS we have and ALWAYS will focus on learned breath control as a FIRST priority in all lessons. Breath control is a child’s ability to hold their breath before they go under the water. KASS also teach children to roll over and float if they need to take a breath. As most children under the age of 2 are not yet physically capable of independently lifting their head out of the water to take a breath.

In our experience and through the way we teach breath control to children through our survival program, we have not found the need to teach infants and toddlers to blow bubbles. Teaching a child to blow bubbles too early makes them less safe and can cause a range of problems. This is one of many reasons that we don’t teach survival lessons to children who are aged under 6 months. We use specific methods to establish breath control and teach children to hold their breath when their mouth and nose is submerged in water. This practice keeps air inside the lunge, which in turn, increases buoyancy. If a baby or young child has lungs full of air, they will stay close to the surface easier, giving them time in an aquatic emergency. Blowing bubbles teaches infants to empty their lungs, which increases the chance of sinking under water faster.

The theory is that blowing bubbles to release air keeps children from inhaling water (aspirating).  The reality is, when a child is properly taught breath control with correct professional instruction from the beginning, their body automatically protects itself from water going into the lungs. In our lessons, children learn to respond to the natural environment rather than a person.

Over 13 years of teaching a full range of children including children with special needs, we are yet to encounter a child that has not responded to our methods of establishing breath control. In our opinion, teaching a child to blow bubbles too early makes them less safe and can cause a range of problems. Babies need to hold their breath so they can submerge and swim distances. Blowing bubbles will increase the chance of the baby inhaling and ingesting water. At KASS, we wait until breath control is well mastered before we teach children to exhale their bubbles underwater. By the bubble blowing stage the child has already learnt breath control, swimming to the edge or safety and independent floating. At this point they progress onto transitional lessons where diving for submerged objects and stroke is introduced and the slow release of breath is monitored and instructed.

This is now industry knowledge. Even our biggest critic, Laurie Laurence has shifted his swim teaching philosophy and no longer condones bubble blowing under 2 years in his lessons, because he “noticed that as soon as babies blow out their bubbles then they must take a breath in”. (See article link below).

At KASS we are always looking at continual improvement with keeping the child’s safety always paramount.

Call 1800 543 779 or email info@infantswim.com.au to book your child into our accelerated survival program to increase their water safety.

Reference: worldwideswimschool.com/blowing-bubbles-2-years-4-months/

Competence before Confidence

“Many Australian children enter into an aquatic experience without any understanding of their personal capabilities or limitations….It is vitally important we provide children with the opportunity to undertake progressive aquatic skill development that considers the experiences and activities that they may be exposed to in the future and provide them with a core set of skills that can be utilised in times of need.” Royal Life Saving NSW

That is why at KASS, once the child has completed the Survival program and is fully skilled, they perform their newly learnt skills in full winter clothing including shoes and nappy. This is a vital step because it is a very different sensory experience swimming or floating in clothes.

To ensure the child has an understanding of what it feels like to perform the skills in clothes, we simulate this in a safe and controlled environment so should they ever fall into water fully clothed, it won’t be the first time they have performed this skill.

Call 1800 543 779 or email info@infantswim.com.au to book your child into our accelerated survival program to increase their water safety.

#survivalbeforestroke #kidsaquaticsurvivalschool #watersafety#survivalswim

Image source; Daily Telegraph

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