Why Every Parent Should Take Their Child To Swim Lessons
Bode and Morgan Miller lead by example after tragedy
Almost a year after their 19-month-old daughter drowned in a backyard pool, Bode and Morgan Miller brought their 6-month-old son to a swimming lesson.
Morgan Miller shared the emotional moment on her Instagram Stories Monday and her post has now gone viral, capturing the nation’s attention.
Hopefully, the post also reminds all parents of young children to take their child to swim lessons.
Drowning is the leading cause of injury death in U.S. children 1 through 4 years of age. It is the third leading cause of unintentional injury death among U.S. children and adolescents 5 through 19 years of age.
At Cook Children’s, last year was the worst on record after 79 children were treated for drowning, with 12 being fatal.
Nicole Wineriter, a Cook Children’s pediatrician in Keller, began swim lessons for her children when they were older infants, around age 1. Dr. Wineriter says, “I can’t say enough great praises about swim lessons.” At 5, one of her children could swim laps the length of the pool in three different strokes. Another child could swim under water for 10 seconds, traveling 10 feet and climb out of the pool by the age of 2.
“I’m a huge fan of swim lessons, if started at the appropriate time for each child,” Dr. Wineriter said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that research has found swim lessons are beneficial for children starting at around 1 and may lower drowning rates. The AAP continues that swim lessons are “increasingly available for a wide range of children, including those with various health conditions and disabilities like (autism spectrum disorder) ASD.”
“Learning to swim is a great family activity,” said Linda Quan, M.D., FAAP, co-author of the AAP’s policy statement. “Families can talk with their pediatrician about whether their child is developmentally ready for swim lessons, and then look for a program that has experienced, well-trained instructors. Ideally, programs should teach ‘water competency’ too – the ability to get out of the water if your child ends up in the water unexpectedly.’”
A parent or caregiver’s decision about when to begin swim lessons should be based on a variety of factors, according to the AAP, including comfort being in water, health status, emotional maturity, and physical and cognitive limitations.
Participation in formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88% among children ages 1 to 4 years old, according to Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
The USA Swimming Foundation found that there’s been a 5-10% improvement among children in overall swimming abilities over the past decade. But there’s still much work that needs to be done.
Nearly 64% of African-American children, 45% of Hispanic children and 40% of Caucasian children have no or low swimming ability, putting them at risk for drowning. A frightening find in the study is that 87% of swimmers with no or low ability planned to go to a swimming facility during the summer and 34% plan to go swimming at least 10 times during the season.
While extremely important, swim lessons are no guarantee that a child will be safe in the water.
“It is important that parents not feel secure that their child is safe in water or safe from drowning after children have participated in swim lessons,” Dr. Wineriter said. “Adequate ‘touch supervision’ is still recommended, meaning an adult should be within an arm’s length at all times.”