A radical approach to preventing childhood drownings

Frankie, 22 months, cries when her Infant Swim Rescue teacher Andie Groff lets go of her in the water and she submerges. It is day five of the toddler’s lessons, and although she clearly isn’t happy about it, Frankie quickly flips onto her back and floats. Within a few minutes, she stops crying and not only floats but swims underwater a foot or so.

Infant Swim Rescue teaches kids as young as six months to flip on their back and wait for help.

Her dad, Frank Tajak of Glen Ellyn, was determined to have his daughter learn to swim, something he’d never mastered and which left him with a lingering apprehension about the water. So he and his wife Christy enrolled Frankie in an Infant Swim Rescue program.

ISR isn’t a traditional swim program; instead it teaches children to “self-rescue” during an aquatic accident. Children as young as six months are taught to flip onto their backs to float and relax until help arrives, while toddlers are taught to flip back and forth from an underwater swim to a back float while they swim to safety.

The program isn’t easy, requiring parents to bring their child for an individual, 10-minute lesson every day for six weeks. This allows children to learn through repetition, while accommodating their short attention spans, Groff says. Plus there’s lots of paperwork to fill out and the program is pricey.

Jackie Huisman drives every day from Orland Park to Oak Brook for her daughter Gabriela, 4, to attend the lessons. By the fifth day of Gabriela’s lesson, she eagerly swims a few feet to the side of the pool with her eyes open and is learning to flip back and forth from a float to an underwater swim.

“To know your child will know what to do if there’s an accident, I’ll feel so much more comfortable,” Huisman says.

ISR is available at numerous locations throughout Chicago and the suburbs and costs $95-$105 per week, depending on location. There is also a $105 non-refundable registration fee, which covers the child’s medical evaluation. For more information and for a location, visit infantswim.com.

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