Ahh, Spring. The weather is getting warmer and our thoughts turn to tax preparation and the compulsive urge to vacuum under furniture. While these two things can be put off indefinitely (depending on your standards of housekeeping and how many extensions you can finagle from the IRS), water safety is one subjected that is best addressed right now. Nope, this isn’t a pitch to put your kids in swim lessons (but don’t let that stop you from doing it) – it’s to tell you about our amazing, educational, life-saving Aquatic Safety Awareness Program (A.S.A.P.)
And it doesn’t cost you a penny.
A.S.A.P. is the non-profit foundation begun by Jim and Nikki Miller over 10 years ago to educate the community about basic water safety. The national drowning statistics are horrifying – it’s the leading cause of death for children under 5 (and #2 for children under 14). Every spring A.S.A.P. Ambassadors travel to pre-schools and kindergartens across the Santa Clarita Valley to present a fun puppet show that highlights rules every child should know around water. Our spokesfish, Gus and Goldie, along with an accident-prone hammerhead shark and a type-A dolphin, illustrate important safety points such as “Never Swim Alone” and “Reach and Throw – Don’t Go”. The children are also given a Gus and Goldie coloring book, a parent’s guide to drowning prevention and a card good for a free swim lesson at Academy Swim Club.
Last year A.S.A.P. Ambassadors visited over 2100 students. This year we want to beat that number. If you have a 4 – 5 year old, ask your principal or pre-school director if he or she has scheduled a date for the A.S.A.P program. If not, ask that he or she contact Academy Swim Club to do so – A.S.A.P! It’s educational, it’s fun and it’s FREE. Best of all, it just might save a life.
This time of year, helping our children learn to swim becomes a priority. With the heat and daily access, children are finding water to plunge into, and we become keenly aware of how precious they are, and how easily we could loose them. Time to sign up for swim lessons!
If you are going to a facility or pool outside your home, look for cleanliness throughout the facility. Does the facility require showers before entering the water? Is the facility child friendly? Are there toys in the pool and around the deck to make it look like a fun place, or is it a sterile, work environment? What is the water temperature? Children learn best in 90 – 92 degree water.
With so many programs and teachers out there to choose from, how does one decide which one is best for their child? Some things to consider are what your goals for these lessons are: Is safety your primary concern, and you want your child swimming ASAP? Swimming 3 days a week is a good choice. Swimming 4 or 5 days may sound better, but often it is met with resistance from the child, and results in their lack of enthusiasm and a waste of your money. Is safety part of the program, or is the teacher just going to teach your child how to swim? Are you interested in having your child swim on a team one day? Your instructor should be proficient at teaching freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly. Are you looking for a fun activity for your child with no hurry? Your instructor should know this, and be very patient. What are your child’s and the instructor’s personalities, and will they work well together? Just because an instructor is super with one child, does not mean that s/he can adapt to another child with an opposite personality. If the instructor is the same with all students, s/he may not be right for your child. A very outgoing instructor may be overwhelming for a shy child. What motivates your child to learn? Watching other children? Being first in line? Praise from the instructor? Your attention and praise during the lesson? Prizes after the lesson? You should consider all of these in deciding group, semi-private, or private lessons, to get the most bang out of your buck.
Last week we gave you a checklist of things to bring to a swim lesson (Swimsuit? Check!). This week we thought we’d share a few more tips to help make your child’s swim lessons a happy success.
If your child is still taking naps try to schedule his lesson for an hour or so after he normally wakes up. Tired kids are cranky kids, and the ones that just woke up aren’t always too perky either.
Give your child a snack 30 minutes before her lesson. Make it something light that will deliver energy for swimming. Fruit is good, but avoid meat and dairy. Probably best to skip that Happy Meal with chocolate milk rather than chance it making a reappearance in the pool.
Arrive early to allow time for your child to become accustomed to the surroundings. It will decrease nervousness and spark curiosity about the pool and lesson. Hopefully he will have a chance to watch his instructor teaching another child.
Talk to the instructor about your child’s swimming experience, personality and your goal for lessons. Instructors will always try to adapt to your desires – whether you want a no-pressure, relaxed lesson or a more forceful approach. As lessons continue let the instructor know about anything unusual going on in your child’s life. If you’ve got family from Italy visiting for a month, the instructor will understand that she is more distracted and tired and adjust the lesson.
Put on a happy face. It’s important to show your child a positive attitude toward swim lessons, especially if he is anxious or scared. Listen carefully to his fears and promise him that you will both speak to the instructor about them. Use confident, fun language and avoid saying things like, “You won’t have to go under water today.” Your instructor will, of course, do what you ask, but you’ve reinforced the idea that going under water is a bad thing that your child must be protected from. Instead, reassure him that his instructor will always help him and he will get better with practice. Then talk to the instructor about your child’s specific fears. Usually there is a gentle way to take a step in the right direction that everyone can happily live with. Whatever you do, DON’T pull your child out of the lesson early because he is crying. It will make it much harder to get lessons on track; he will continue crying because it gets him out of the pool instead of accepting that he must stay in for the whole lesson. Remember, your child will pick up on your attitude, so make sure you project the right one!
Finally, give your child another snack after the lesson. Moving around in the water burns a lot of energy – she will be hungry, and probably tired, too. If she still takes naps, schedule one for after the lesson as well. Many of our Baby Swim parents say they love the nice, long naps their babies take after class.
As always, our office staff and instructors are here to help you in any way we can. Be sure to ask one of us about any specific concerns.
This time of year we enroll a lot of new swimmers and many parents wonder what they need to bring to lessons. Here is a handy checklist to help you prepare.
Can’t Live Without:
A swimsuit and towel (you’d be surprised how often these are forgotten at home).
Hair bands to tie back long hair.
TWO health department approved swim diapers (children under 36 months). They are reuseable and cut like underpants with elastic around the waist and leg openings that fit your child snugly. They are available for purchase at our front desk. Children under three must wear TWO swim diapers. Little Swimmers can be worn as well, but they still must wear two reusable swim diapers.
Nice to Have:
Waterproof toy. Some children feel more secure if they can bring something from home into the pool.
Shampoo/body wash and lotion. All of our showers are equipped with liquid soap, and soap showers are required before entering the pool, but feel free to use your own soap from home if you prefer. Also, we recommend washing with soap after a lesson to decrease itchy, dry skin. If this is an issue for your child, lotion will help as well. Many parents shampoo their child’s hair at that time and dispense with the need for a bath later.
Blow Dryer. Electrical outlets are located in our bathrooms if you would like to dry your child’s hair before leaving the building.
Snack. Moving through water makes you tired and hungry so you might want to pack something for your child to eat when they get out of the pool.
Many parents limit swimming to the warm summer months believing that their child will get sick if they swim during the winter. The fact is children are no more likely to catch a cold from swimming during winter than during summer. Children are more susceptible to colds and the flu during winter, it’s true, because school is in session and they are in close contact with each other. Also, the viruses that cause infections thrive during the dry cooler months. And those viruses are sneaky little ninjas. Of course you wouldn’t send your child to school if he is sick, but he’s contagious even before the first symptoms of illness appear. Kids, being kids and not particularly concerned about hygiene, spread these germs across everything they touch or breathe on. With their brand new immune systems, children don’t have the anti-bodies to fight off most of the viruses they run into. Most children come down with 6 to 10 viral infections a year! It’s not the water making kids sick – a properly chlorinated pool is probably one of the cleanest places a child can be.
So here are a few points to consider regarding winter swimming:
* Swimming in winter poses no threat to children with functioning immune systems. Our pool is indoors and the water is heated to 90 – 92 degrees. As long as you quickly and thoroughly dry your child and change him into warm clothes he’s no more at risk from catching a cold after swimming than he is after his bath.
* Regular exercise helps keep the body, including the immune system, strong. Studies conducted in Germany indicated that swimming children are actually healthier than their non-swimming friends. (Take that evil virus ninjas!)
* Year round swimming ensures that children do not forget skills learned between summers. Plus, it allows new skills to be taught at the most advantageous developmental age.
If you want more information on colds and flu’s, check out the links below.
“Can babies really learn to swim?” We are asked this question by parents in our Infant Survival program all the time. To which we answer, “YES!”
We like to tell the story of Nikki and her infant son, Garrett. Nikki, as many of you may know, is the owner of Academy Swim Club. Almost two decades ago she was training a group of instructors in preparation of the seasonal opening of her swim school (back in the bad old days before we had this wonderful indoor, heated, climated controlled pool). Three days a week for a month she would take Garrett, who was about 7 months old, into the pool for 3-5 hours a day. When he wasn’t being passed around to the instructor trainees to practice on he would play on the steps. Sure, he occasionally slipped off the steps and fell in, but someone was always there to give him a nudge back to safety. At the end of the month, Garrett could swim. Not just put his face in the water and kick, but also roll over, float, catch his breath, then roll back over and keep swimming. You can see his underwater baby picture hanging behind our front desk. (He’s an instructor here now, so if you see him, be sure to compliment him on his attractive rainbow, leopard-print swim diaper.)
“But WAIT!” you cry. “I don’t have 3-5 hours a day, 3 days a week to spend in the water!” And that’s the best part. You don’t have to. The important thing to remember in Garrett’s story is this: #1 – he was consistently put in the pool. The intense amount of time just meant he learned to swim faster, but the consistency is what made it possible. 25 minutes twice per week will still get you to the same place if you consistently attend class. #2 – the attitude of the people teaching him was positive and confident. No one acted like the water was something Garrett had to be protected from. Instead he was given the chance to swim and his attempts were supported.
We have many more examples of infants and young toddlers swimming in our Baby Swim classes. They prove that it is possible for babies to learn to swim if given the opportunity and encouragement.
Living in SoCal we can’t escape the backyard pools. Even if you don’t have one, chances are good that a neighbor, friend or relative does. The motto of Academy Swim Club has always been “Learn to swim . . . for life!” Now we’re adding another – “Every child a swimmer by 3!” A motto and a mission.
Two summers ago, back in 2008, July was a particularly difficult month at ASC. Every weekend for an entire month brought news of another child drowning in Santa Clarita. Thankfully none of our ASC family was hit with this tragedy, but some of their neighbors were. Naturally, all of us were shocked and saddened, but in the end we were motivated to do something. A little education would go a long way in preventing further incidents, so in response ASC offered a free CPR and Water Safety course – not just for our members, but anyone in the community. The following spring we dispatched our Aquatic Safety Awareness Program (ASAP) Ambassadors to pre-schools and elementary schools all over the valley to educate and empower over 2100 children to save their own lives with basic water safety. No one wanted to see another summer like ’08.
Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for children under 5. Many parents do not think of signing their child up for swim lessons until they are almost 5, so when you think about it, this is hardly surprising. Water is everywhere – pools, fountains, toilets, buckets – and kids love the stuff. Can’t keep them away. Nothing replaces supervision (even for excellent young swimmers), but learning to swim adds another layer of protection.
We want summer to be about fireworks, camping trips, blockbusters and pool parties. So that’s our motto and our mission – “Every child a swimmer by 3!!!”
SURFER magazine – September 2008 issue, volume 49 number 09
Article “Molding Clay Marzo” by Chris Mauro and Jake Howard
Naturally, she wanted her son to fit in. When she noticed him retreating more into his world Jill wondered – as any parent would – what the hidden cause was. “What I knew about how he acted didn’t worry me, it was what I didn’t know. After a while, my biggest fear was how other people would react to his little quirks that I was used to,” she says. “Like if he doesn’t know you he has a tough time making eye contact in conversation.”
But even while Clay’s unique personality traits were becoming more pronounced, his athletic prowess in the water kept him center stage. When he was 14 years old, Clay beat every kid in his age group in the 200-freestyle at the Hawaii State Championships. In short order, he became the Lahaina swim team’s secret relay weapon. But just when mom though he might be connecting with a new group of friends, Clay abruptly walked away from the team, citing a severe distaste for Speedos.
“Now I can see that it was much more than that,” says Jill, who’s been doing a lot of retrospective thinking over the past six months. In that time she’s also undergone a life altering transformation, and the incredible sense of relief she’s feeling is “totally indescribable.” Her anxiety – the anxiety that’s been eating at her for well over a decade has been all but vanished. The reason? Jill’s finally been given a crystal clear window into her son’s mind, and the beauty she’s finally discovered there has changed everything. “I have a whole new appreciation for Clay today. I can honestly say I finally understand my son.”
The new view came via the confirmation, just six months ago, that Clay has Asperger’s syndrome, the mildest and highest functioning form of autism. While this came as quite a shock to some, for many of those in Clay’s inner circle, especially those who’ve been delving into research, it makes complete sense. It explains perfectly almost all of Clay’s familiar patterns of behavior. “We understand now how his brain handles – or doesn’t handle – sensory overload. Looking back at the swim team stuff, it’s pretty obvious that the crowds and hoopla from strangers was just too much for him,” she explains. Those are the kind of dots she and others have been connecting ever since doctors confirmed his test results.
Asperger’s syndrome got its name from Hans Asperger, and Austrian physician who defined the condition in 1944 (although the medical community didn’t officially recognize the syndrome until 15 years ago when autism awareness was just coming into its own). What confounded physicians for years was the inability to define autism in black and white terms. It has many faces, and its wide variety of disorders make up a very broad spectrum with several shades of grey – from the high functioning brand of Asperger’s syndrome to the incredibly debilitating variety of autism that renders its victims in need of constant aid; it all essentially depends on which neurotransmitters in the brain are being affected.
While Clay’s symptoms are very mild, the socially debilitating hang-ups he suffers from are linked directly to the more negative affects of Asperger’s. The more obvious are the lack of eye contact in social situations and his inability to demonstrate the empathy he feels for friends and loved ones – both classic traits of Asperger’s. Other characteristics, while more quirky, can be just as intolerable if uncontrolled, like his routines. There’s also his intense preoccupation with narrow subjects and his incessant hand wringing, plus more endearing gifts, like his incredible memory and complete inability to lie.
SURFER magazine – September 2008 issue, volume 49 number 09
Article “Molding Clay Marzo” by Chris Mauro and Jake Howard
Clay Marzo has always operated on a different level. He was only seven moths old when his mother began to notice, “He never crawled,” Jill Marzo explains, “He just started walking one day at seven months and one week.” But even more that his uncanny coordination, it was Clay’s ability to absorb the tiny details of anything that interested him that impressed his mom most. “He was more focused on his interests than any kid I’d ever seen, even when he was three years old. It started out with seashells that he’d collect for hours at a time. Then he graduated to these little sea animal toys- he could tell you everything about each one, and later it was all about baseball cards. He had stacks of them, and knew everything on them.”
Like many kids who grow up in Hawaii, Clay’s affection for the water was something he seemed born with. “I nursed both my boys in the tub half the time,” says Jill, “they were both going underwater as infants and they loved it.” And later while toddler Clay was collecting his seashells, his older brother Cheyne Magnussen who’s got six years on him, was hitting the lineups on Maui. That one day Clay would eventually take to the waves was a given.
“And from the moment he stood up on a surfboard all of that intense focus of his was transferred to surfing, and being in the ocean- rolling and floating in the water. Looking back on the home movies, and knowing what I know now- you can see that he’s at peace, and how good the sensory input must have felt for his body and mind.” But what Jill understands today regarding Clay’s modus operandi is something she didn’t understand at all during his salad days as a wide-eyed grommet.
Clay’s surfing provided Jill even more evidence to suggest that her son was developing way ahead of schedule. Like everything else he took a real interest in, he progressed rapidly in the water. But as those early years passed, she began taking notice of Clay’s more quirky personality traits, which were becoming more pronounced. While Clay’s peers were becoming more socially adept and emotionally mature, he seemed to be enjoying his own private world more and more. While his friends were growing their horizons and their social networks, Clay showed very little interest in breaking the rigid routines he liked adhering to. The routines had become rituals, and breaking out of them in any way made him completely uncomfortable. He’d usually start wringing his hands and make excuses mot to go or do whatever was being asked. Eventually, even meeting new people and making new friends was becoming a struggle. As primary witness to it all, Jill had the gnawing suspicion that her son’s many gifts had some hidden costs.
What merits the word amazing? Is it an “A” on a homework assignment, a beautiful sunset, a newborn child, or a baby going underwater for the first time?
At Academy Swim Club anything can be amazing! But what is most remarkable is a child’s joy and power once they have conquered their fear of water. It is truly amazing to see their attitude change from terror and panic to respect and admiration for water. They begin to see water as a useful tool for playing, exercising, and surviving rather than a scary device that will only cause harm.
For the past 30 we have experienced this amazing transformation of fear to respect in over 40,000 children and babies. We have watched them grow from one level to the next overcoming and mastering strokes, breathing techniques, safety techniques and basic water survival skills. At the end of their training they leave Academy Swim with a love and joy abut swimming and a new intelligence about interacting with the water. It is our mission that every child experiences this momentous conversion.