Teaching ‘Survival’ Techniques To Infants – The Baby Swimming Industry Speaks Out Evidence for or against drown-proofing a child is necessary, but it would be unethical to subject babies and toddlers to these methods to assess the methodology. Therefore, a new report titled ‘Sink or Swim’ has been published by the UK baby swimming industry today to argue the case against ‘survival’ teaching methodologies based on authoritative scientific research
ll the major UK bodies involved in baby swimming have come together to speak out and warn pool operators and parents about the dangers of ‘survival’ methods being taught to young infants. This united call to action comes after videos, which show distressed young learners being taught these ‘drown-proofing’ methods, going viral across social media and gaining increasing media attention in the UK. Baby swimming is a wonderful sensory activity; as such it has rapidly become a cultural must of early parenting because of all the known benefits it provides, including the progressive teaching of age-appropriate lifesaving skills. But in recent times, videos have been circulating the internet about so-called ‘drown-proofing’ methods for babies. These sink or swim methods actively promote the de-risking of drowning accidents for toddlers through classes in which learners are taught, and forced, to roll-on-the-back-to-float. While some may see this highly stressful, forceful method of teaching as being ‘a means to an end’, the wider baby swimming profession argue that there is an urgent need to examine if these drown-proofing techniques, which are being promoted to parents as insurance for their child’s water safety, are actually safe, acceptable and effective. The industry consensus is that this evidence must be based on current scientific
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research – and not the views of parenting experts who are not recognised scientists. Furthermore, it must be recognised that confidence imparted to a child by either baby swimming classes or water survival techniques should not substitute parental supervision. Dr Francoise Freedman, a medical anthropologist at the University of Cambridge and the founder of Birthlight, is considered one of the world’s leading experts on baby swimming and she says in the report: “Drownproofing methods through floating have been around for decades, but the techniques are becoming more prevalent and have recently caught widespread international attention – leading to us, uniting as an industry in the UK to speak out about our concerns.” Francoise explains that the causes for concern are that this methodology is based on a conditioning that is unnecessarily aggressive. She explains: “Conditioning (forcing) a baby or toddler to float relies on extreme traumatic methods and sadly no amount of praise will compensate for the memory of inflicted pain – it just gets pushed into the recesses of our brain, where it is recorded. While some children will escape unscathed, for others, the trauma may resurface in later years and cause a fear of the water. And because we do not know who is at risk, we have to question if it is worth doing; and the simple answer is no, based on
scientific evidence and statistics.” Kaylë Burgham, Head of Aquatics at STA, the UK’s leading experts in baby swimming teaching and a registered charity dedicated to the teaching of swimming and lifesaving skills, added: “While we wholly agree that teaching water safety is essential – it’s at the core of everything we do – we morally cannot agree with this drown-proofing methodology. There are far gentler childfocussed swimming teaching and water safety practices readily available that parents are advised to follow. “For STA, the potential neurologically harmful practices of forceful conditioning, as outlined in the report, are simply not justifiable in any circumstance.” Michael Dunn, RLSS UK Deputy Director of Education and Research said: “As the drowning prevention charity, the Royal Life Saving Society UK advises against the use of these types of infant self-rescue or survival programmes. The RLSS UK has taken this position following close scrutiny of the evidence base which shows no proven drowning reduction benefit to the infant, and which has raised significant concerns nationally and internally about the potential for an increased risk of drowning during or following participation in these types of programmes. The Society does support parent and baby sessions, and basic water safety and swimming
www.swimmingpoolnews.co.uk 25/07/2017 17:57
Published on Aug 1, 2017
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