Children learn water survival techniques

Tuesday, April 22nd 2008, 10:50 pm
By: News 9

By Amy Lester, NEWS 9

Drowning is the number one killer of children between the ages of one and four in the United States, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Mothers nationwide are taking the statistic to heart and enrolling their children in water survival class.

A group of parents in San Antonio are testing the waters to see if their children will pick up on the survival techniques.

Lisa Riddle is one mother who believes the classes could save her child's life.

"It's a great opportunity for your child, you're offering them the gift of life," Riddle said.

The children are enrolled in a class for sets of 10 minute lessons. The children repeat techniques learned during their 10 minute classes until the method becomes instinct.

The children naturally offer their share of protest.

"It's horrible, you know. I want to jump in and grab him, but I know he's learning," mother Tanya Raba said. "It's a good thing."

The students, ranging from six months to six years, learn how to save their own lives, the mothers said. 

Becky Puhl, the instructor, shows the children how to maneuver from a face down position in the water to floating on their backs. 

"I can completely teach a lesson, and not say a word and still convey everything, even to a child who cannot talk," Puhl said.

Babies as young as six-months-old can learn how to roll on their backs and float, taking them only a month to learn the technique.

Puhl relies on her hands to guide the toddlers, using repetition to teach them the move.

"I don't know how she does it," mother Emily Turner said.

The children take private lessons five days a week, for several weeks. They begin their training in swimsuits and as they improve their skill they're promoted to diapers and finally full clothing.

"Today was her best lesson," Riddle said. "She's instantly turning herself on her back, floating. She's learned to get oxygen, she has to get on her back."

Parents quickly realized, if their child were to fall in a pool without supervision, no matter what the child is wearing, survival skills will kick in.

"Seeing them lift themselves up to the top of the water and being able to save themselves, it makes me smile," mother Jennifer Robinson said. "It makes me want to cry. I think it's a beautiful thing."

Eventually, the toddlers floated on their own for several minutes, which could be long enough for someone to rescue them.

"I think it's amazing, I didn't think it was possible," Turner said.

For older kids, Puhl incorporated another step. She taught the children to find the side of the pool, grab on and pull themselves out of the water.

"The safest thing for them to do is turn around and go to where they came in," one instructor said.

Parents who have enrolled their children in the Puhl's class are confident the teachings will make a difference.

"Even though it's hard to watch, I know that it's gonna be so beneficial for him and for us," an instructor said. "It'll save his life, that's all that matters."

The classes are taught by instructors from Infant Swimming Resource. Currently, there is one instructor in Oklahoma. To find out where the lessons are offered, click here.