Viral video sparks conversation about swimming lessons

What's the best age to teach your child how to swim?

ORLANDO, Fla. - The video is simple enough, little 16 month old Elizabeth Christensen swimming and treading water in a pool while her dad watches and records her moves.

The video posted on YouTube has been viewed more than 2 million times. Many of those who watched the video have posted comments critical of the practice, fearing for the child's safety.

With the amount of controversy surrounding peoples reaction to the video, Local 6 asked infant swimming instructor Karen Faust for her opinion of the video. 

Faust teaches up to 30 kids a day during the summer months at the Dr. Philips YMCA. She says in her opinion the child is practicing perfect ISR training. ISR or Infant Swimming resource is a technique used to teach infants as young as 6 months old to help themselves if they ever end up in water alone.

"She's already a skilled student that has learned to swim, roll and float at about 3-4 seconds, wait one or two breaths, flip back over and swim to the step or wall." Faust continues, "If she should be in a lake or somewhere she couldn't find her way out, she would attempt to swim and then eventually she would just roll and float."

Here in Florida ISR is taught under the Safe Start program. Faust uses the very same procedures with her students.

Ilona Dunne started lessons for her 19 month old daughter Kaylin one week ago.  Dunne says living in Florida and having a pool at home made the decision to start classes an easy one. She says her pediatrician recommended the classes.

"She loves going in the water and she has no fear of the water. She would just go towards it."

Dunne says it's difficult to watch her daughter struggle in the early stages of learning  but it's a necessary step for Kaylin's self survival.

"It's hard, but you let them cry a little bit or do you lose them forever? I'd rather see her cry a little bit, learn to help herself in the water and know she's going to be okay should she fall in by accident."

Faust agrees that more parents should get over that fear and enroll their kids in classes that can save lives. "That's what people are afraid of, they look unhappy. It's a lot of work," she says. "I'm asking her to hold her breath and reach for that wall and it's something that she's not certain of. As she gets more certain she'll get more comfortable with it."     

The Safe Start program is offered through select Central Florida YMCA locations. It's a 6-week course, five days a week for 10 minutes a day.

[WEB EXTRA: More on infant swimming]

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