5 Questions with Amanda Hamrick: Promoting water safety skills

May 19, 2013 

Is there an ideal age for a child's first swim lesson?

I try to encourage parents to start their children in swim lessons as early as six months. If you decide to wait until they are older, I would recommend that the entire family practice safe play while in and around the water. This can prevent situations that may lead to children becoming fearful. It is so much easier and more fun for the child to learn if they haven't developed a fear of the water. Learning to swim can be an exciting time for a child that leaves them with a feeling of ac

complishment and gives them confidence when the lesson is conducted properly. I try to encourage all of my students during class and we celebrate when goals are reached and exceeded.

There's some debate surrounding "self-rescue" swim lessons for infants. What's your take on this method?

I believe that parents or guardians should have a clear understanding that "self-rescue" training is a last-resort safety method in their attempt to prevent drowning. Parents should ensure safety with other methods such as a self-locking gate around the pool and through water safety practices by the entire family (adults included). There is no swim lesson available that will "drown-proof" your child so you have to be responsible for ensuring the safety of children when around water. When I am teaching children between the ages of six months and 3 years, I try to incorporate at least one parent or guardian in the class so that the adults who care for the child are learning the same techniques I'm teaching to the child. I want water safety to be a family activity.

On the other end of the spectrum, how do you help adults conquer a fear of the water?

Children take swim lessons because their parents sign them up; adults take lessons for personal reasons. Prior to beginning our lessons I talk with my adult students to find out why they are taking lessons; from there I am able to develop a training plan that fits their needs and goals. Most adults tend to underestimate their capabilities in the water and many of them have a fear of the water that goes back to an incident that scared them as children. I try to make the class fun and interesting so that the adults aren't focused on the fact that they're in a swim class but instead are willing to push their comfort level and have fun. I really enjoy teaching adults because of the personalization we are able to work into the class.

You also specialize in CPR and First Aid. What's a common misconception when it comes to first aid practices?

The old adage "if you don't use it you lose it" is true. If you haven't taken a CPR class in the past two years, then you likely do not remember enough to be comfortable providing care in an emergency today. In addition to simply forgetting the steps to follow, you may not even be trained in the current response methods. The guidelines for proper care during an emergency are reviewed and updated every few years in order to train responders in the safest and most effective steps for use in emergency situations.

Recently I have reviewed rescue skills with several parents of toddlers because they last trained in infant CPR during pregnancy and now that the child is up and running around they recognized the need for a refresher in their rescue skills. You never know when an emergency will strike or who will be affected so I feel that it is best to be prepared. I have been teaching CPR and First Aid through the American Red Cross since 1999. In that time many of the people who participated in annual training were very surprised at how much material they had forgotten from the previous year. Contact me at amanda.swimlady@gmail.com if you have questions.

What's the best-kept secret in the Chattahoochee Valley?

The best kept secret in the Chattahoochee Valley area is the amount of science and history scattered throughout our community. Muscogee, Russell, Lee and surrounding counties are rich in Native American, pre-colonial, Civil War, and Reconstruction history. Columbus is home to the Coca-Cola Space and Science Center and our community lies within the Fall Line which has significant geological value.

History and science are all around us, but for those of us who were raised here, we tend to be more interested with what is going on in other places than we are with our own home town. I recently took my first visit to Providence Canyon, better known as the "Little Grand Canyon," just south of Columbus a few weeks ago. I'm planning on taking the Columbus Historic Walking Tour soon!

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