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Parent News...from around the world, baby!
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News item April 2010 - Changing their previous advisories the American Pediatric Doctors Gave Words Easing their Past Stance Against Aquatic Programs for Children Under 4 years - and Now Point to Possible Benefits.  This is a green light for parents of 1 year olds up who desire sensible water orientation programs preparing their children for learn to swim that will follow.

Click here to view the AAP's statement on their website.






The News Journal, Delaware 
Child-Free Classes are a plus for overcoming fear of water
Janet Frankston, Associated Press

When Kelly Yuan chose a college 17 years ago, she was relieved her first choice didn't require students to pass a swimming test.

She didn't remember swimming as a child, when most people master the skill, and a bad experience swallowing pool water as a teen had left her with no desire to learn.

But now, at 34, she decided it was time to catch up. Yuan recently enrolled in an adult swimming class, joining other women between ages 28 and 63 at 7 a.m. every Sunday to learn the ways of the water.

With the erosion of swimming programs in public school physical education classes over the past few decades, some adults are now trying to learn what they may have missed as a child, some swimming experts say. Adult swimming has become popular enough for New York's 92nd Street YM-YWHA to open a second beginners class on Thursday nights in 2004 and double enrollment, said aquatics director Lane Wineski. In New Orleans, some swimming instructors report an increase in adults learning how to swim after Hurricane Katrina.

Swimming instruction programs try to accommodate these special needs, offering adults-only classes and addressing the kinds of fears adults may bring to the water that kids don't. Wineski said she receives up to a half-dozen calls per week from adults asking about swimming lessons. Most people worry they'll be in a class with children.

"They feel they are the only ones who would be afraid to put their face in the water or not go into the deep end," she said. "They're embarrassed they don't feel comfortable because they're not 5 years old learning how to swim."

Yuan's instructor, Manny Tubens, said he takes a different approach with adults. He spends the first 10 minutes of the initial class telling them what to expect and building confidence for the fearful students.

"We walk around the pool in the shallow water. I tell them they can stay near the walls, and I'll hold your hand," he said. "I try to get them in the mood to relax."

He said adults are more serious about swimming. "They want to learn techniques, timing and breathing, whereas the children, they just want to splash around," he said.

While he skips the games -- such as singing "Ring Around the Rosie" to get the kids to dunk their heads under water -- some of the tools are the similar. Adults and children use the same buoyant water noodles. He doesn't give kickboards to children because they can slip off, but uses them with adults.

Kathryn Scott, director of physical education at the University of California at Berkeley, uses at least one game with adults -- called rocks and corks -- to explain the principals of buoyancy and the physics involved with swimming.

"The physiology is important," said Scott, who helped review the Red Cross water safety instruction manual.

Tubens, who has taught swimming for more than 22 years, says he takes on grown-up fears head on. He taught one class at a YWCA in Midtown Manhattan called "Petrified People Don't Sink."

Tubens said he gives his students different options to make them feel comfortable.

"If they can't swim across the pool, 10 or 15 feet, maybe they can walk across and use their arms," he said.

It difficult for adults or even teens to learn to swim because they recognize the real dangers of water, said Allan Cassorla, a clinical psychologist and associate director of counseling and psychological services at Columbia University. He said children are often fearless.

"With adults, there is a greater degree of concern about safety and concerning one's own mortality," he said. "That increases as one gets older."

Many public schools have eliminated swimming programs as part of physical education, as budget cuts reduce physical education classes, said John Leonard, executive director of the American Swimming Coaches Association in Fort Lauderdale.

"It's been steadily occurring since the late '60s and early '70s, and it's gotten worse and worse," he said.

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Various news sources reporting
Phoenix, Arizona, USA goes without a drowning this summer
barriers and preventatives awareness credited

Swimming pool accidents are typically the biggest killer of children in Phoenix and its suburbs, claiming more lives than even car crashes. Last year, 22 children drowned, most of them in the summer, many of them after falling in. That is about average for the sprawling metropolitan area of 3.6 million people.

But since May 14, not one child has drowned in a pool, according to the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Central Arizona, a group run by parents and rescue workers. No one can seem to remember the last time Phoenix had a zero-drowning summer.

"Knock on wood. It's fantastic," said John Harrington, the group's president.

The achievement is being attributed to a number of preventive measures, many of them promoted by parents like Harrington who lost children to accidental drownings: a 1991 Arizona law that requires fences around pools; a Phoenix Fire Department program that has been providing free fences for the past three years; CPR and pool safety classes now offered in many cities; and public service campaigns that have made "Watch your kids around water" a mantra for parents.

"Good fortune has to be part of it," Phoenix Fire Chief Bob Khan said. "We've had a lot of pool submersions this year where people have gotten to them in time."

In a metropolitan area where the air sizzles from spring often until Halloween, so many youngsters have drowned over the years that police dispatchers developed a special whistle to alert rescue crews over the radio.

Scottsdale Fire Capt. Jim Novotny, who has been pulling kids from backyard pools for 24 years, got to know that trilling sound well, and recalled that in some years, there were multiple drowning calls in an hour.

"It was getting out of control," Novotny said. "You're just throwing your arms up. What can we do to make people more safe around water?"

Harrington, a hospital administrator, helped found the coalition after his 18-month-old son Rex fell into the family pool and died in 1986.

"The baby sitter took my daughter in the house to get something to eat and left Rex out by the pool. By the time she got back out there, he was floating in the pool," said Harrington, 51. "It was the worst thing in my life. It consumed me. During that year, as typical with families, my wife developed a drug and alcohol problem. Then we got divorced."

Harrington said he couldn't stop asking questions about how he could have better protected his family: "Maybe we should have put a fence in. Maybe we should have done a better job picking a baby sitter. Should we have Rex take swim lessons?"

He helped organize consumer product safety officials, firefighters and emergency workers, and the coalition lobbied lawmakers and helped pass a rare state law requiring pool fences for households with young children.

It also helped develop safety products -- including motion sensors that sound an alarm when someone falls into a pool -- and works to educate people about pool safety.

Not surprisingly, warm states lead the nation in drownings: Florida, Arizona, Mississippi averaged more than five deaths per 100,000 people each year from 2000 to 2002, according to Dr. Tim Flood, a state Department of Health Services statistician who works with the coalition.

Without fail, Arizona ranks each year among the top states in per capita drownings among children 4 and under, Flood said.

"I've never seen a summer where we've not had several deaths in pools," Flood said. "If indeed we've gone through the whole summer without a pediatric death, that's very remarkable. Boy, I'd love to have this happen again."

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Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Milwaukee, Wisc. USA
and the Seattle Times
Experts differ sharply on the age children should learn to swim
By Katharine Goodloe

dad helps his 2-year-old daughter swim toward a toy while using a "noodle" to keep her afloat at the YMCA in Greenfield, Wis.

When 20-month-old Dominic Gasparac began diving underneath the water during his baths, then coming to the surface coughing and choking, his mother decided: It was time for swim lessons.

Four weeks into water-safety lessons designed for children ages 6 months and older, Brooke Gasparac said her son can now kick in the water and paddle with his arms. During a recent session at the YMCA in Greenfield, Wis., he learned to blow bubbles into the water instead of inhaling it while he plays.

But without yet reaching his second birthday, just how much more should Dominic learn about swimming?

It's a topic still debated among experts.

On one side is the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommends that kids wait until age 4 to learn to swim. On the other are instructors who say they've taught children as young as 6 months to swim solo.

At the YMCA where Dominic and his mother attended class, an instructor led the group in singing "Motorboat, Motorboat," and other rhymes as parents lifted children into and out of the pool then helped them practice skills such as floating on their backs.

The program focuses on getting kids used to the water, not on pushing them to swim independently, said Heather Williams, who leads the group of aquatics directors at the YMCA's seven local pools.

"We can't tell a parent or child exactly when they're going to learn to swim," Williams said. "It's a learning experience in and around the water."

The Red Cross has a similar approach. Though its parent-and-baby classes start at age 6 months, it doesn't start teaching kids to swim solo until about age 5.

Swimming independently

But at Swimtastic Swim School instructors teach classes for babies 6 months to 2 years, with the goal that they swim 5 to 10 feet independently by the end of the advanced course.

"We've found great success at teaching infants to swim," said Susan Wainscott, who founded the school. "We just see that the water is so relaxing to the baby, and we see terrific exercise and motor skills being developed at such a young age."

Classes at one Swimtastic's location meet once a week for 30 minutes over an 11-week session and focus on getting babies comfortable with the water.

They learn to hold their breath and let water wash over their faces, then parents and the instructor begin passing the baby short distances in the pool, letting the child go for a few seconds to encourage independent swimming.

Donna Gruman said her two youngest daughters each started classes at Swimtastic when they were 6 months old. Unlike her oldest daughter, who began swimming at age 3 and took six months to be able to put her head beneath the water, the younger children put their heads in the water and blew bubbles after just a week or two, she said.

"If you wait until they're 3, they usually get that fear and they're afraid to get their face wet," Gruman said. "If you start when they're a baby, they don't have that fear. They really take to it."

Still, it's a controversial approach.

How soon is too soon?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), kids "are not developmentally ready" to learn swim strokes until their fourth birthday. The group also warns parents not to think kids are safe around water, no matter how many swim lessons they've taken.

"Aquatic programs for infants and toddlers should not be promoted as a way to decrease the risk of drowning," warns an AAP policy statement.

And not all great swimmers began early. Olympic hero Michael Phelps started swimming at 6. But Olympian Summer Sanders began swimming at age 2 and could swim a complete lap in a 25-yard pool by the time she was 3, according to her biography for the U.S. swim team.

Safety is the issue

Most parents, though, say safety is their biggest concern, not swim competitions.

In Washington state, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children, with an average 27 children drowning here each year, according to the Washington State Child Death Review Committee.

A 2004 review of 67 child-drowning deaths from 1999-2001 found that nearly seven out of 10 occurred in open water such as lakes, rivers or the ocean. An adult was present in the majority of cases where a child age 14 or under drowned.

Rob Kopplin said he didn't want his children to repeat a dangerous experience he had as a child. He hopped into a neighbor's pool, thinking he could stand. But the water was over his head and he didn't know how to swim.

His 2-year-old son Elliott has taken to the classes at the YMCA in Greenfield, Wis., "like a fish," Kopplin said.

Although he's open to classes that push Elliott to learn more advanced swim skills while he's young, Kopplin said he likes the emphasis on safety in his current water lessons.

"It's them getting comfortable, knowing to yell for help, knowing that it's dangerous and respecting that," he said.

Seattle Times staff reporter Stephanie Dunnewind contributed to this story.

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Fear of the Deep End: What's the best way for kids to learn to swim?

by Emily Bazelon

Illustration by Robert Neubecker. Click image to expand."You'll only build a sand castle with me if I swim to the dock?" My 6-year-old son, Eli, asked my husband, Paul, this question a couple of weeks ago as they stood on the shore of a Maine lake. Eli didn't sound plaintive; he wanted to make certain that he had his facts right. Paul replied in a deliberately even tone, "No, I'm going to swim to the dock right now and I think it would be fun for you to come. But if you don't want to, I'll build a sand castle with you when I get back."

If this sounds all too practiced, that's because Paul has been waging a campaign to get Eli into the water for several summers now. My husband comes from a family of avid swimmers who revel in jumping into lakes—the colder, the more memorable. When Paul's father tossed him into freezing water in Nova Scotia as a kid, he howled in protest, but nonetheless considers the episode a badge of honor—baptism by ice. Eli, however, hasn't been a bearer of this family tradition. Much of the time, he is the sort of child who loves to please, but persuading him to put his head under water took great effort, and he's even been skittish about playing in shallow water in which he can easily stand. During past summers, Eli has spent vacation weekends on the sand or at the side of the pool, keeping all but an occasional toe dry, his refusals becoming louder and firmer the more we tried to coax him. This has led to Paul asking me uncharacteristically surly questions about why our kid is acting like a ninny.

The struggle to get Eli to swim has taught me how much easier it is to act and feel like a good father or mother when your child easily follows your lead. When parents talk about their babies who sleep through the night or kindergartners who read to themselves, a note of inevitable pleasure creeps into their voices as they explain how the child's signature achievement is the output of their inputs. We may pretend to humility ("I mean, not that I realized what I was doing …"). But don't be fooled. When we're proud of our kids, we're usually sure they have us to thank. The corollary of this smugness is that if a child is generally adept at fulfilling expectations, we wonder what we've done wrong when he or she fails to. Watching Eli in the water, I started thinking that Paul and I shouldn't be trying to teach him to swim ourselves. In the end, I learned, we weren't wrong to try. We were just trying too hard.

The American Red Cross has taken the lead on swimming instruction in this country for nearly a century. The organization says that this is all because of one man, Commodore Wilbert Longfellow, who saw the death toll from drowning as an impending national tragedy and started a Red Cross lifesaving corps in 1914. During World War I, the Red Cross taught soldiers to swim with full packs and in combat conditions. By the 1920s, the organization had established two national institutes to train swimming instructors. The initial emphasis was on lifesaving and elementary swimming. That led to the step-by-step program familiar from camp and the YMCA.

When I was a kid, you moved from "Beginner" to "Advanced Beginner" to "Intermediate" to the hallowed designation of "Swimmer." In 1992, the Red Cross got rid of the names—it says the progression was hard for some kids and parents to remember—and replaced them with numbers, from Level 1 to Level 6. Kids still get a card for completing each level, and according to my 12- and 7-year-old nephews, Zachary and Matthew, this remains a prime motivator. The program looks like what we've failed to develop in so many other areas of education: a national set of standards. Almost 2 million kids participated last year. The Red Cross would like to raise that number, especially in minority communities: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black children drown at twice the rate of whites.

Since 1957, when the Red Cross kicked off the separate program "Teaching Johnny To Swim," the organization has also urged parents to help their kids get used to the water. For infants and toddlers, that involves classes that children attend with a parent (or another adult) as well as an instructor. And the Red Cross urges the parents of older children to spend time with their kids in the lake or the pool. The idea is that kids are encouraged to learn to swim if they're around water often.

But when a child is ready for Level 1 instruction—depending on maturity, perhaps at age 5 or 6—the organization thinks that ideally instructors, not parents, should impart the requisite skills. "When I taught swimming, the rule was that the parents stayed behind the glass in the hallway," says Don Lauritzen, a Red Cross health and safety expert. "We didn't want them creating a distraction and extra pressure by shouting out if they saw their kid doing something incorrect."

I like to think that Paul and I would never be so unrestrained. But pushing Eli to do new things in the water (Blow bubbles! Float!) was probably the psychological equivalent. We'd have been better off putting him on his stomach in the bathtub, pouring water on his head, and giving him more time to splash around there. I learned this from my sister-in-law. Her three children have taken to swimming more easily than mine, and when I watched their youngest, Elena, play in the tub as a baby last year, I understood why. The Red Cross calls this "water adjustment." Elena, of course, just thinks it's fun.

What of Eli's swim to the dock on our Maine vacation? He decided to swim with Paul that morning, but insisted on lying on top of a raft while he kicked himself across the water. I demonstrated the kick for the breast stroke and expected him to try it; naturally, that went nowhere. The breakthroughs began later that week: Eli swam to the dock on his own when he got to know a bunch of kids around his age who were comfortable swimming and wanted to go with them. A few days afterward, we hiked with his cousins to a mountain swimming hole. The water was bragging-rights chilly: Paul leapt in. Eli hesitated. But then Zachary and Matthew jumped. They climbed out and did it again, this time from a higher rock. Eli watched them jump and whoop with Paul a few more times. And then he jumped, too.

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November 22, 2005
Let's Give Thanks for Faultless Pens, Swimming Teachers
by Garrison Keillor

...These days I am grateful beyond words for a swimming teacher, Alyssa, who is a functional person of a very high order. Twice a week, she takes my sandy-haired, gap-tooth daughter in tow and puts her through her paces. Alyssa is young, blonde, brimming with confidence, with broad shoulders and a car horn voice. She hollers, "Kickickickickickkick" and "GOGOGOGOGOGOGOGO" and the little girl puts her head down and swims for all she's worth. A few months ago, she was timid in the water, like me, and now she is a fish, all thanks to her wonderful teacher, a taskmaster with a sense of humor, who is in the pool with her pupils, unlike the Schwimmfuehrer of my youth who strode alongside the pool and showered us with contempt and ridicule. Alyssa's gift is enormous to us. My daughter gets a taste of discipline and success and this makes me very happy. So much that is dismal and destructive in the world, but for me, the joy of a 7-year-old girl putting on her swim goggles almost makes up for it. Thanks be to God for the teachers of the world.

Happy Thanksgiving.

© 2005 by Garrison Keillor.