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Teaching children to swim is heartfelt lesson from Jacksonville mom

Infant Self-Rescue survival swimming lessons can save lives

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – While new parents have their hands full changing diapers and taking care of the new addition to their family, experts suggest they also consider Infant Self-Rescue swim lessons. The program teaches babies how to save themselves if they accidentally fall into a body of water.

News4Jax reporter Ashley Spicer took her 11-month-old daughter, Ali,  to an ISR instructor, because she, like many parents, was concerned about the possibility that her baby might drown.

Ali just wrapped up Infant Self-Rescue lessons with her instructor, Heather Spurlock, who said the work is more of a mission to her after losing her own son in an accidental drowning five years ago.

"I searched for purpose in losing my son. I realized I was supposed to be a teacher, but not in a classroom. A pool will be my classroom. That one life. It's totally worth it, just (saving) that one child, knowing our son's life isn't taken in vain," Spurlock said.

She said swim devices like floats can give a child a false sense of security, and that's why they are prohibited for students. Spurlock said she used to put her son in a floaty swim outfit.

"At the age of 2 the child doesn't know that suit is what's keeping them afloat, so he just assumed he was capable of swimming and he drowned," Spurlock said.

Spurlock has been working with Ali for six weeks, five days a week for 10 minute lessons to get her to learn to float and if she falls in face-down, to flip herself over and float.

"It was difficult the first couple of times. There's been times I've had my hands over my face, and I'm just like, 'Is she OK?'" Spicer said. "It was scary. but worth it to see Ali float on her own."

The emphasis is on Self Rescue, not actually learning swimming strokes. 

Lessons can start once a child is 6 months old.

Although lessons can be expensive for some families, there are scholarship programs available.
If you are interested in a scholarship or donating to help pay for lessons for children click on the link above. For more information on ISR click here

About the Authors:

Lifetime Floridian anchors weekends and reports weekdays on issues in Nassau and Baker counties and beyond.