Frequently Asked Questions

What is ISR and how is it different from other swimming programs?

Formerly known as Infant Swimming Research, ISR is the product over 50 years of ongoing development in the area of aquatic survival instruction for infants and children. ISR can greatly increase your child's chance of surviving an aquatic accident, even when fully clothed! Developed in 1966 by behavioral psychologist Dr. Harvey Barnett, ISR Instructors have taught over 350,000 students with over 12 million lesson taught worldwide.

What will my infant learn?

Children ages 6 months or older are taught to roll over and maintain a back-float position in the event of an accidental fall into the water. Teaching your infant to float takes approximately 6 weeks. Private, 10-minute lessons are held 5 days per week, Monday through Friday. Fully skilled students can maintain a back-float in a bathing suit or in clothing. ISR highly recommends survival training once your infant begins to crawl and can sit unassisted.

What will my toddler or child learn?

Children who have been walking unassisted for a few months are taught to swim with their face in the water, and rollback onto their back to float. After resting and breathing, they will roll over and continue to swim to the nearest point of safety. A child can perform this swim-float-swim sequence to reach safety in a survival situation. Children can also perform this sequence fully clothed. If a child does not see a way out of his predicament, he will roll over onto his back and maintain a back-float position. This gives the parent extra time to reach their child in the event of an aquatic emergency. This same sequence is most often used for fun at the pool! The confidence and self-esteem of these young swimmers is truly amazing! Teaching your child to perform this skill will take approximately 6 weeks.

What will big kids, teens or adults learn?

Children ages 7 and up, including adults, will learn the Illinois Swim Rescue Program which includes a swim-rest-swim technique where they will be taught to hold their breath and swim underwater, roll into a float so that they can catch their breath and relax their muscles while resting and breathing comfortably, and then roll over to swim underwater again. Light swim strokes including breast-stroke, freestyle, and backstrokes may be incorporated into the program. Lessons are 30 minutes and are offered 2-3 days per week (Monday through Friday) for 4-8 weeks depending on the skill level of the student. Each student is given a 30-minute time slot for the same time on Tuesdays and Thursdays, or Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays. There is a one-time registration fee of $50 per person.

Are swimming lessons safe for infants and small children?

YES! The American Academy of Pediatrics has recently stated that they believe children should begin swim lessons as early as 12 months of age. ISR is dedicated to safety, and maintaining numerous safety protocols to promote safe lessons. Your child's health and well-being are closely monitored on a daily basis. In addition, your child's medical and developmental history is a mandatory part of the ISR national registration process, all of which is held strictly confidential.

All ISR Instructors undergo an intensive and rigorous training program that far exceeds any other training program of this kind. Each ISR Instructor is also required to attend yearly conferences, and undergo an extensive recertification process. Your education in the area of aquatic safety for your entire family is an integral part of your lesson program, as well. When you register, you will receive a link to our detailed and informative Parent Resource Book which educates you about every aspect of swimming for infants and children, written by Dr. Harvey Barnett and JoAnn Barnett.

Consider these additional points:
  • No child is ever thrown into the pool.
  • A child is never submerged for more than 7 seconds.
  • ISR Instructors monitor your child for temperature and muscular fatigue, as well as physical and psychological well-being.
  • Your child's daily routines outside of ISR lessons hold valuable data for your instructor. You will receive instruction on how to communicate this information to your instructor.

By reading the Parent Resource Book, you will understand why ISR Instructors are truly qualified to teach actual aquatic skills to infants and young children under the age of 6 years.

How do you teach a baby to swim?

ISR Instructors teach infants to swim by honoring each child's individual strengths and experiences. They understand the fundamentals of child psychology, behavioral science, physiology, child anatomy and development, and sensori-motor learning as it relates to the acquisition of aquatic survival skills; they use this education to guide each child through the sequence of learning to swim and float through non-verbal communication.

Why should parents enroll their child in ISR lessons?

ISR parents enroll their children into ISR lessons because they feel it is important to teach their children how to survive an aquatic accident. Children will learn to float and breathe until rescued should they find themselves alone in the water. Research shows that swimming is best learned early in life. (Newsweek and Drowning Statistics)

Do parents get into the water during the lessons?

Research shows that it takes an incredible amount of concentration and objectivity to teach a baby or child how to respond to an aquatic emergency, and parents often find it too difficult to be objective to be effective teachers with their own children in the water. Also, having parents in the water can be distracting to the child and the instructor.

What if my child is afraid of the water, or will my child learn to fear the water?

There is an important difference between being fearful and being apprehensive because you are not yet skilled in a certain type of environment. ISR is not like traditional swim lessons; it is a drowning prevention program that teaches survival swimming. Your child may not happily skip to his or her ISR lesson each day at first, but that's okay. Sometimes as a parent, you make sure your child does things for his or her safety, such as sitting in a car seat because you know it is safe and important. The same can be said for ISR. Once competent in their skills, many children don't want to leave the pool. They are having entirely too much FUN! When you learn about ISR, you know this is the most important level of protection you can give your child to prevent drowning. If fences, supervision, and alarms fail, your child's skill is an additional measure of protection.

I've never heard of ISR - why is it not more well-known?

ISR was founded in Florida and has worked its way through the US over the past 50 years. ISR is continually growing while maintaining its high standard of quality control. Parents who take the time to investigate programs that are available for their children find ISR; hence, the program continues to grow by word of mouth with hundreds of thousands of educated and satisfied parents. We look forward to the day that Not One More Child Drowns!

How are ISR Instructors trained?
  • Each ISR Instructor has spent a minimum of 60 hours in the water working beside a Master Instructor and/or Senior Master Instructor, gradually taking more and more responsibility for each child's lesson. In addition to in-water training, several months of academic sessions are conducted in the areas of child development and learning theory, behavioral science, child psychology, anatomy, physiology, and physics as it relates to infants and young children in an aquatic environment.
  • Each Instructor is also required to maintain certifications in First Aid and CPR for Healthcare Providers. In addition, each Instructor is required to attend annual ISR recertification training for safety evaluations, continuing education about every facet of ISR, and quality control and quality assurance.
Why can't ISR teach infants under 6 months old?

Children under the age of 6 months are not neurologically mature enough to benefit from ISR instruction, and do not have the muscular development that is necessary to retain ISR skills.

What other benefits does the ISR lesson experience provide the child?

Every child is different; however, many parents report that once their young children have mastered learning to swim, the resulting confidence in their abilities builds a positive self-confidence that is often demonstrated in other aspects of their personalities, growth and development.

How do children know to hold their breath?

Breath holding skills are taught in the first few lessons. ISR Instructors shape breath control using highly effective techniques along with positive reinforcement.

My child has had little or no experience in the water; can they still take these lessons?

Yes, whether your child has been a water lover for their whole life, or this is the first time they have been introduced to the water, ISR lessons are designed for all children.

What about the use of flotation devices and life jackets?

Flotation devices give children a false sense of security and hold them in postures that are not compatible with swimming skills. If a child learns that he can jump in the water and go into a vertical posture and he will be able to breathe, he is getting the wrong idea about that environment. Flotation devices are meant to be worn for emergency use only; they are NOT designed for swimming. Children, who cannot swim, should not be allowed to learn that it is safe to play in the water while relying on a flotation device or "puddle jumper". Life jackets must be worn in a boat or around the water when there is the potential for an accidental submersion; however, they are not a substitute for the ability to swim or for adult supervision.

How is it that babies can learn to respond to the danger that water presents when they fall in?

A baby does not need to perceive danger or be afraid to respond appropriately to being underwater. If a baby has learned to roll over and float when he needs air, he doesn't need to perceive danger in order to respond in this manner. He needs skill, practice and confidence to calmly deal with the situation.

What further lessons will my child need?

ISR recommends that you bring your child back for refresher lessons. Frequency depends on the child's age, growth rate, skill level and confidence level. The goal of refreshers is to help your child adjust his/her new body size and weight to his existing skill level. Your Instructor will work with your child to help fine-tune his or her aquatic experience to assist with building efficiency, which will result in self-confidence. This is especially important if your child has not been able to practice any appropriate aquatic skill between seasons. While NO program can "drown proof" your child, ISR lessons typically have a 94% retention rate up to one year later. Refresher lessons are important because children change rapidly both cognitively and physically during the first 4-5 years of life. It is important that their aquatic skills and abilities grow with their bodies.

Some parents choose to keep their children in "maintenance lessons". Anyone who has completed our survival swim lessons or courses may continue swimming through what are called maintenance lessons. Maintenance lessons are great for families that do not have access to a pool or water source but want to continue swimming throughout the year. Students may learn additional techniques such as diving down for toys, “big arm” breast strokes, or other age appropriate swim behaviors while keeping their survival swim skills in top shape!

Families choose a time slot for the same time each week and will come one day per week (Wednesdays), two days per week (Monday & Friday or Tuesday & Thursday), or three days per week (Monday, Wednesday & Friday). Families may come and go as often as they like. There are no registration fees* for maintenance lessons. Fees vary based on the location.

*Families who have registered with the ISR program are required to “update” their registration forms annually at the cost of $35 per child per year. This includes children who are moving from one program to the next.