Studies Link Swimming Instruction to Drowning Prevention

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The National Drowning Prevention Alliance, the U.S. Swim School Association, as well as Little Otter Swim School in Charlotte, NC, are campaigning to have the drowning epidemic in America highlighted on the Oprah Winfrey Show during her last season.

Children ages 1 to 4 may be less likely to drown if they have had formal swimming lessons.

Drowning is the second-largest cause of death for children in the United States, a fact that prompted the national organization for swim lessons, the U.S. Swim School Association to campaign the Oprah Winfrey show to feature how this can be prevented. Teaching children to swim is one layer of protection against drowning. The goal for the US Swim School Association is to have ten thousand concerned parents email Oprah to carry this message on her show, in its final season. Local swim schools like Little Otter Swim School, who are members of the association are talking about the topic on Facebook and in their classes.

“Children need to learn to swim,” says Jeffrey Weiss, MD, a regular contributor to Pediatrics, the peer-reviewed journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). According to Dr. Weiss, not all children become ready to swim at the same age. However, the AAP informs parents and caregivers that formal swim classes for children ages one to four decreases their risk of drowning. These findings hold true for children over four years of age as well.

Little Otter Swim School finds that young children learn best when instructors teach them in ways sensitive to their stage of development. Little Otter designs lessons and teaches according to what is physically and cognitively appropriate for each particular age group. In this way, teaching them basic swimming skills. These basic skills translate into one layer in the prevention of drowning.

Pediatrics states, “children ages 1 to 4 may be less likely to drown if they have had formal swimming instruction.” Little Otter Owner, John Kirk, agrees with this assertion. “Swim instruction in a formal setting, in comfortable conditions with warm water and caring instructors gives an environment where a child can learn not only to swim, but also are exposed to water safety," Kirk says.

Proper swimming instruction teaches children to respect the water. At Little Otter Swim School, children learn destination swimming, which enables them to reach the pool’s edge or water island should they fall into the water. Little Otter also teaches techniques like the back float that allow a child to get a breath and call for help. The only way to keep a child safe around the water is constant adult supervision but swimming lessons can give the child critical skills to help them survive.

Drowning is the number two cause of death for children between the ages of one and 19. Second only to motor vehicle accidents, drowning results in approximately nine U.S. deaths every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Furthermore, the risk of death by drowning increases for children between the ages of one and four, as over one quarter of toddler deaths in 2004 were caused by water-related accidents.

These statistics become ever-more surprising with the revelation that 70 percent of preschoolers who drown are under the supervision of parents, according to the Orange County Fire Authority in California. Seventy-five percent of these small children disappeared from sight for less than five minutes. Adult supervision isn’t enough to protect children. Many water-related injuries and deaths might be avoided if parents and care-givers provide children with adequate swimming instruction. Little Otter Swim School and other swim schools offer formal swimming instructions to children as young as six months to ensure water safety.

Little Otter Swim School
Little Otter Swim School was founded in January of 2005 and provides Charlotte families with an alternative to “typical” swim lessons. Little Otter proudly provides year-round, small group instruction in a warm indoor swimming pool where parents can watch their children progress from a comfortable viewing gallery. Owners and founders John and Lory Kirk started with an original staff of five and have grown to over 30 instructors teaching thousands of children from the Charlotte, North Carolina area, to swim. Little Otter is a proud and active member of the United States Swim School Association, the World Aquatic Baby Congress, and the National Drowning Prevention Alliance.


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