Summertime Safety for Kids – Swim Lessons With ISR

I remember it so well. It was a sunny day in Jacksonville in May 2011, a perfect day to take the kids to the pool. Caroline was six months old and happily bobbing around the pool in her float complete with a cover for shade. Lyla had just turned three and enjoyed holding onto a pool noodle or hanging out on the steps playing with water toys. My husband got out of the pool to warm up in a lounge chair while I stayed in with the girls. I looked at my husband to chat for what felt like a split second. When I looked back down, Lyla, who was right beside of me, was under water, eyes big as saucers because she had no idea how to get up for air or that she could simply put her feet down and stand on the step underneath her. I picked her up and she was totally fine, but I knew at that moment we had to do something, as this was our first of many trips to the pool that summer.


I had heard of  Infant Swimming Resource (ISR) but always thought it sounded intense and crazy to be honest. I started researching online, talked to other moms, and called instructors. The next week Lyla started ISR lessons with Trisha Gabriel on the Southside of Jacksonville. I was amazed at what she taught Lyla in just five weeks. Lyla learned to swim to the steps or the wall and if she couldn’t find either, she learned to flip on her back, relax and breathe. Now when I take my girls to the pool people stare in amazement and ask where they learned to swim and float so well. I proudly answer “ISR” and then give them an ear full about how wonderful the program is.

This is the time of year when many moms are deciding what type of swim lessons to enroll their kids in. To give you more information about ISR I interviewed Ms. Trisha, Lyla and Caroline’s ISR instructor of three years.

1. What makes ISR different from other swim lessons?

ISR is the product of over 45 years of ongoing development in the area of aquatic survival instruction for infants and children. ISR’s  primary focus is to teach your child to become a productive swimmer, or floater in any depth of water. The goal of ISR is that your child becomes an “aquatic problem solver.” ISR will greatly increase your child’s chance of surviving an aquatic accident, even when fully clothed!

2. How old does my child have to be?

ISR students are generally between the ages of six months and six years. Children ages six months to 12 months learn to roll to their backs to float, rest and breathe until help arrives. One milestone our youngest students must have mastered is to be able to sit without support. This indicates the back and abdominal muscles are strong enough to perform the rotation from tummy to back in the aquatic environment.

3. What’s the oldest age you teach?  Are the lessons different for older children?

While the age range is usually up to six years old, older children can also benefit from ISR lessons. Children one to six years of age learn to swim face down, roll to their backs when they need air, then flip over to swim. They continue this sequence until they reach the steps or side of the pool.


4. Why are lessons five days per week and only 10 minutes?

Repetition and consistency are important elements of learning for young children. Research shows that short, more frequent lessons result in higher retention of skills. Children have short attention spans and we want to take advantage of the best time for learning.

5. What if my child cries? If my child doesn’t enjoy the lessons should I keep bringing her?

Children often fuss/cry during the first few lessons because they are in a new environment and around new people. As your child gains confidence in her ability in the water, the fussing will decrease.

6. Do I get in the water with my child?

ISR lessons are one-on-one with the instructor while your child is learning these very important life saving skills. Once your child is ready to practice at home, your instructor may have you get in with them to show you how to effectively work with your child in the water.

7. How many weeks will my child be in ISR?

ISR lessons take approximately six weeks to master the skills necessary to be an aquatic problem solver. Each child is unique. Some may take less time and some may take a little longer. 

8. Why do I have to write down everything they eat and do?

ISR requires parents to fill out the B.U.D.S. sheet (Bowel, Urination, Diet and Sleep) and present it to the instructor before each lesson. This information allows the instructor to customize each lesson to your baby each day.  Communication between the parent and the instructor about how the baby is feeling and acting between lessons is a vital part of the lesson plan.

9. Will they retain what they learn?

ISR claims a retention rate of 94-100% up to one year following lessons. Having said that, children will explore and may pick up bad habits watching other children or interference with their skills may occur by practicing in the tub or playing in shallow water (ie: steps, kiddie pools, etc.) Your instructor can let you know what behaviors may interfere with your child’s ISR skills. If you feel your child is not practicing correctly, contact your instructor immediately to schedule maintenance lessons. Refresher lessons are recommended if your child is out of the water for an extended period of time and at the beginning of each swim season. These lessons are important due to the physical and cognitive changes children these ages experience. It is important that their water survival skills grow with their bodies.

I hope my interview with Trisha covered most of your questions. For additional information, go to the national ISR site or Trisha’s website

The National Drowning Prevention Alliance (NDPA) supports May as National Drowning Prevention Month.  A couple of facts from their website are:

  • Drowning is the second-leading cause of death to children ages 1-4 in the United States
  • Drowning is the number one cause of death to children ages 1-4 in most southern states

With statistics like these, we can’t be too careful when our precious children are near water. Give your children the skills they need to survive in the event of an accident and take some time to brush up on your water safety rules before you head out for fun in the sun.

Liz- ISR from Vicky Lane on Vimeo.

Liz Morrow is a stay at home mom and wife to a US Navy helicopter pilot. Their Naval family will live many places, but have been fortunate to have a longer than expected eight-year stay in Jacksonville. Liz is a mom of two sweet little girls who look like twins except they were born 2 ½ years apart. She worked as a Certified Public Accountant for seven years before trading her briefcase for a way too big diaper bag. In her spare time, Liz loves to workout, run, cook, blog, and sip wine. She never turns down a date night with her hubby and also loves Girls’ Night Out. She is active in her Officers’ Spouses’ Club (Navy wives) and her Mom-2-Mom group at church, and you will frequently find her helping with the babies and preschoolers at church on Sunday morning.


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