WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU)- This weekend marks the start of the summer swimming season.
Fun in the sun- but also a time of great danger. This year, nearly ten people will die each day from unintentional drowning. The Center for Disease Control says two of those victims will be children under the age of 14.
Overall, children ages one to four have the highest drowning rates. The CDC says a significant reason for that is because they haven’t been taught to swim.
With all those stats in hand, our PALive! Co-host Brittany Sweeney set out to teach her eight-month-old son skills in the pool that could some day save his life.
If the adorable little bathing suits aren’t enough to get your little guy or gal splashing around, maybe this will:
“Pools lakes, rivers, anywhere, bathtubs, anywhere. A child can drown in a bathtub, says Diana Dempsey, the Senior Aquatics Director at the YMCA in Wilkes-Barre. “So any body of water, these skills could be lifesaving.”
According to the CDC, drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States. That’s why Brittany decided to enroll her son, Max, in swimming lessons at the Wilkes-Barre Family YMCA.
Many people asked why she was getting him in the water so young, Dempsey says the sooner the better.
“I cannot emphasize enough the need for early intervention, really,” says Dempsey. “For helping them grow into swimming one step at a time.”
Their program has babies six months and older getting their feet wet.
“A lot of times at six months, they are perfectly relaxed and they love it,” says Dempsey. “But sometimes if you wait until they are two or three or four years old, then you may have a child that, even if they never had a bad experience, they could be terrified of the water. Then it takes a much longer time to get them safe in and around water.”
“I didn’t swim until very late in life and I was very scared,” says Danielle Correll of Drums. “I want my kids to feel more comfortable.”
Correll sees a difference from week to week in her adorable ten-month-old Anthony, who just recently let the instructor dip his head in the water to float.
“He’s only been here twice, but he is already kicking,” says Correll. “He lays on his back fine.”
The infants catch on quickly to the exercises, like holding the baby and helping him or her kick their legs. During just the second class Max began learning the movement.
“At that age, it’s water acclimation,” says Dempsey. “We are trying to get them used to and enjoying the water, so that they can grow into swimming one step at a time.”
In addition to learning basic swimming movements, swim classes help children get comfortable around the water psychologically.
“They definitely have a lot of confidence,” says Samantha Danko of Hanover Township. “We don’t own a pool, so they don’t get to practice as often, but when we go to someone else’s house, they immediately remember all of the things they’ve learned, so it’s really great.”
Two and a half year old Ivy is Danko’s third child to go through the Y’s program.
“A lot of times kids get older and they get scared of the water,” says Danko. “I didn’t want that to happen and they are not. They are all very comfortable.”
Dempsey says the YMCA is not a parent’s only option.
“Even if it’s not class, if you keep them in the water somewhere, then they are not going to have that fear to overcome when they are developmentally ready to swim,” says Dempsey.
She also warns that a knowledge of swimming does nothing without adult supervision.
“There is no such thing as drown-proofing a baby,” says Dempsey. “We want to do everything we can, as they grow, to teach them how to be safe in and around the water.”
Brittany says she had a a lot of fun watching the babies get used to swimming and just being in the pool. Max likes the songs they get to sing and loves interacting with all of the other kids in class. He also sleeps very well after all that swimming!
Enrollment is open now for members for the next eight-week swimming session and will open Monday for non-members.
For more information, you can go to http://www.wbymca.org/.