Plunge may prevent young drownings
LONDON: Mothers who have lost children to drowning are teaching toddlers a controversial water survival technique they believe could save lives.
Emma Aspinall, 33, launched her own swim survival lessons after her son, Loui, two, drowned in 2013 on holiday in Tunisia.
She raised £10 000 (R170 000) to complete a water safety programme in the US and now teaches the one-on-one lessons – which sees youngsters plunged into water and left to find a way to float on their backs – near her home in Wigan.
“One of my four-year-old students went on holiday and slipped into the pool and instantly got on to her float position,” she said. “She had only had three weeks of lessons but was able to save herself.”
Olivia Rowe’s youngest son Jack drowned in his family’s swimming pool on his third birthday in July 2014.
His mother, 41, is now instructing youngsters in this technique. Some experts have described the method as “harmful” and “distressing”, but Rowe insists the classes could save lives.
Recalling the day her son died, the former PA, from Upavon, Wiltshire, said: “The shock was too much to bear. We couldn’t believe our son, who only hours earlier had been celebrating his birthday, was now dead.” She said she had heard about the “self-rescue” technique before Jack died – but the lessons were not available in the UK. After his death, she went to New York to see the method for herself and then became a fully accredited instructor.
She said: “I was amazed at the children and their ability to save themselves. I believe Jack would still be here if he’d had access to these lessons.”
However, water safety organisations –including Swim England and the Royal Life Saving Society UK – and baby swimming groups are critical of the method.
They said: “While some may see this highly stressful, forceful method of teaching as being a means to an end, the wider baby swimming profession argue there is a need to examine if these drown-proofing techniques… are actually safe, acceptable and effective.”
Dr Francoise Freedman, of the University of Cambridge, who is an expert on baby swimming, has written a critical report, called Sink or Swim – Drown-proofing Teaching Methodologies. She said: “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.”
Paul Thompson, of swim group Water Babies, said: “We are fully aware of the distress to children the self-rescue technique can cause and regard it as an aggressive, unproven method to make babies ‘drownproof’.”
In response to the organisations’ comments, Rowe said: “No child is put in danger. My eyes are on that child 100% when they are in the pool and we’re also in the pool with them.” – Daily Mail
Some experts say the method is harmful