Infant Swim Rescue

Written by Heide Brandes in the August 2013 Issue

Marcy teaching KysonMarcy Toler learned the value of infant swim techniques when her own child was young. “When our son was 15 months old, he could climb out of his crib and open doors,” she said. “We had a pond in our back yard and it terrified me to think he could get to that pond and drown. So I signed up with the only instructor in OKC at the time and after his first lesson, I knew I wanted to be an Self-Rescue instructor.”

There is a serene look on babies’ faces when they float like chubby little creatures in water. All the pictures show the same expression—relaxation, wonderment, that crooked baby smile and calmness. They simply take to water. And because more than 200,000 infants and toddlers have learned Infant Self-Rescue since 1966, more than 788 cases have been documented of children using Infant Swimming Resource Self-Rescue to save themselves from drowning.

Founded in 1966 by Dr. Harvey Barnett, ISR pioneered survival swimming lessons for infants and young children, and in Oklahoma City’s metro area, babies are learning to save themselves. “Our team of nearly 450 highly trained ISR instructors nationwide provides the safest and most effective survival swimming lessons available,” said Marcy Toler, a certified ISR instructor in Edmond. “Today, our mission—Not One More Child Drowns—is the foundation of everything we do.”

For Toler, the instruction was a work of passion. Babies learn to feel comfortable in water, and they also learn to save themselves from the unspeakable tragedy of drowning. “Not only is drowning the second leading cause of unintentional injury related death in children under the age of four, 70 percent of preschoolers who drown are in the care of one or both parents at the time of the drowning and 75 percent of them were missing for five minutes or less,” Toler said. “Why not add another layer of protection to arm children with the skills to save themselves if they find themselves in the water unsupervised?”

Flip and Float SequenceDuring the lessons, children ages 6 to 12 months learn to roll onto their backs to float and simply breathe until help arrives. It’s a basic move, but for babies, learning and maintaining the position is essential. Introducing a baby to water is the essence of learning. “Every child is different. Some children are happy to be in the water. Some are nervous. Some cry. But they all end up fully skilled and armed with techniques to save themselves,” said Toler. “I’ve taught over 500 children, and it is still truly amazing to me every time I get to see a child master a skill.”

ISRĘžs Self-Rescue survival swimming program is a four to six week course held five days a week for 10 minutes each day. Children may begin lessons at 6 months of age until 6 years of age. The lessons emphasize health, ongoing program evaluations and parent education.

Marcy teaching KaleEach lesson is different. Babies learn to hold their breath underwater, roll onto their backs and float. Children ages 1 to 6 learn the same skills, but also how to swim to a place in which they can crawl to safety, a maneuver called the ISR swim-float-swim sequence. Because 83 percent of children who drown are fully clothed at the time, the final week of lessons allows students to practice their self-rescue techniques in summer and winter clothes.

 “It’s never too late to get your child into lessons— the sooner, the safer,” she said. “Several children already saved themselves this year.”

Certified instructors of ISR can be found at

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