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The 'sooner the safer': The survival swim lessons your child can start at 6 months

Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in children ages 1 to 4 and swim instructors want to make sure you have your child prepared to be near the water.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — With summer around the corner, is your child prepared to be near the water?

For many families in East Tennessee, summertime means a trip to the pool or getting out on the lake. But being in and around water can be dangerous for little ones who can't swim.

Swim lessons are just one way to protect your child, and some can start as young as six months old. 

"We like to say 'the sooner the safer' so as soon as you can get them into lessons. Especially true if you have a backyard pool because as soon as they begin crawling, they are at risk of crawling out and getting into the pool and drowning, " explained Korey Dye, a certified ISR swim instructor.

ISR stands for Infant Swimming Resource. The special lessons were specifically designed to prevent childhood drowning and promoted survival in the water.

"Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in children ages 1 to 4. Not an accident, not a fall. Drowning," said Dye.

She said the training is different for each child based on their skill ability and age.

For babies, most learn first to rotate and float.

"It is designed so that babies at six months of age until they are walking know how to go underwater, rotate on their back, and can float until someone can rescue them," Dye explained.

Toddlers will learn float and swim sequence.

"Children who have been walking for a few months, they learn to go underwater hold their breath and swim head down, and then float on their back when they need to rest and breathe, flip back over, continue swimming, and they will repeat eh sequence as many times as necessary to get to the exit of a pool," said Dye.

And because drowning happens when least expected, you'll see her students practicing their skills in shoes, pants, coats, and even with a toy in hand. 

Credit: WBIR

"We also test out all children in their clothes. We do that because the majority of time when children drown they don't expect to be in the water, they have diapers, shoes, sometimes a toy, so we practice with all those scenarios too," she said.

Parents watch the progress poolside and for many, it brings peace of mind.

Meredith Hale's 2-year-old son Abner has made tremendous growth since he first began, and she has watched firsthand the value of the lessons. 

"In addition to being a mom, I'm an emergency room physician. And water safety is an important topic. As an ER physician we dread the summer when there are calls for a child drowning," said Hale. 

She hopes her son never finds himself in this situation but is confident the lessons have prepared him. 

"Any time we hear about children drowning, it's tragic, but more tragic because it's preventable. Giving your kids the skills to self-rescue, there is no price to that. It's something all children should learn how to swim and have the opportunity to have that skill," said Hale. 

The ISR classes typically last six weeks, with a refresher course encouraged every six months.

While these swim lessons can prepare your child, instructors want to be clear it's just one part of keeping your child safe.

They want to remind you to supervise your child. Put up barriers like a fence or alarms around your pool and stay up-to-date on CPR.

Korey Dye teaches Infant Swimming Resource lessons out of the Holiday Inn Express off Campbell Station Road.

If you are interested in enrolling your child in her program you can reach out on her Facebook page KnoxvilleISRLLC and email k.kelley@infantswim.com.

Here are some places that are offering swimming lessons:

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