Babies learn to fend for themselves in swim classes

Monday, June 27, 2016
Babies learn to fend for themselves in swim classes
Meteorologist Amy Freeze takes a look at a swim class for babies and toddlers.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- A small child accidentally falling into a pool is a scary possibility, but some parents are putting their toddlers in the water on purpose, leaving them to fend for themselves.

Instructor Lara Buongiorno explains the non-traditional swim lessons are about drowning prevention.

"The videos are jarring if you don't know the context," she said.

Buongiorno works with kids ranging from 6 months to 6 years, as their parents watch.

"It's stressful," parent Jeanne Taylor said. "You are holding your breath with them."

Building trust is essential, yet it doesn't take much time to see results. After less than a dozen lessons, the tiny students know what to do if they fall in.

They learn to flip over on their backs, to keep breathing, and to float. Buongiorno believes that every child has the ability to be trained.

One student, Gavin Glenn, passed his first six-week course and was back this summer to get a refresher.

His parents, Brian and Tara Glenn, decided to get a pool and want their son to be ready.

Instructors use sensory motor skills and repetition in short but frequent lessons. The lessons are 10 minutes long, five days a week and are kept brief to keep the child's attention.

Even at the start of his lesson, 14-month-old Maximus still whimpers to soothe himself while floating.

"I would rather hear him cry during the class than never cry again," his mother said. "God forbid."

In addition to fences and alarms around a pool, courses like these are another layer of protection against drowning.

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