Class teaches babies how to float in water

June 25, 2010 5:00:40 PM PDT
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services says 38 children have drowned in Texas so far this year. Accidental drowning is one of the leading causes of death among infants, toddlers and young children. The state also reminds us that the deadliest period for drowning is Memorial Day through Labor Day. With that in mind, listen to this. Doctors once said children under five were too young to learn how to swim. But now, the American Academy of Pediatrics has changed its mind, saying kids ages one to four can learn to swim, though that doesn't make them "drown proof."

But there's an amazing program that teaches toddlers how to survive a fall into the pool even when they're wearing heavy clothes.

Laci is barely two years old. She's already being dropped into the swimming pool, wearing jeans, a hoodie and shoes. But she pops up, turns over on her back and floats.

Even with the heavy clothing, she manages to keep her face out of the water with very little assistance. Finally she floats to the side.

It's a test, not of the 24-month-old's ability to swim, but to survive.

Why is it important that you test them in their clothes?" ABC13 Healthcheck's Christi Meyers asked parent Tammy Schoen.

"Because they're not usually gonna fall into a pool dressed and ready to swim," Schoen replied.

Three-year-old Katherine, also fully dressed, took the test next.

She floats in her shorts and sandals to the side of the pool, flips over and climbs out.

Katherine has been in the Houston Swim Club's float classes since she was four months old.

"I decided to go in the water with my clothes on; I was scared," Katherine said. "I was side to side. I put my hands."

"It's amazing what they do with young kids and how they get them to float and swim at such an early age," Catherine's mother said.

Little Beckett is 10 months old, and he's in the infant class.

"If they were to fall in the water, and no one is there to help them, then they can roll over on their back and float until someone does get there or until they get to the side, and so we introduce that back floating skill even at the young age of 4 months," HSC Facility Director Stephanie Burns said.

And for those who say it's controversial to teach babies to float, Katherine's mom has a response.

"It works," she said.

Mothers are the biggest supporters.

"We started him about a month ago," said mother Anna Bell, who started her son at nine months old. "I wish we would have started him at six months or younger."

Even in the frigid water, Lacy turned over until someone found her.

HSC has received many letters from grateful parents for offering the program. But it's seeing children like Laci -- who went back for her second float test -- that convinces most people.

The Houston Swim Club has taught almost 50,000 children to back float or swim in the past 10 years.


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