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Lizi Arbogast / The Outlook Lauren Little, back, gives reassurance to 22-month-old Isla Rose McKelvey during an ISR (Infant Swimming Resource) Self-Rescue lessons.

In just a split second, anything can happen.

It takes only a moment for a parent to take his or her eyes off a child and the worst of the worst can be realized.

Drowning is the leading cause of accidental deaths among children and with water so prevalent in the Lake Martin area, it could be easy for a disaster to happen. But Lauren Little is hoping to combat that with ISR (Infant Swimming Resource) Self-Rescue lessons.

Little recently moved to StillWaters and has just begun her ISR lessons which not only teach youngsters how to swim but also give them the skills they need if they should fall into a body of water. ISR is actually the third line of defense, according to Little, as she advises parents to take necessary precautions, such as constant supervision and fences and alarms where possible.

But this course teaches young children skills and resources they can use for life.

“My attraction to it is I’ve always been interested in mission-based organizations,” Little said. “When my granddaughter was born, this became huge. Because (drownings) are accidental deaths, that means they are preventable. There’s a strategy for preventing these deaths.”

The program is typically a four- to six-week course with lessons that are typically about 10 minutes each and run five days a week.

Aimed at children ages 6 months to 6 years, the lessons vary based on age.

“At the end, usually infants from 6 to 12 months old, they are going to roll on their back to float and rest and breathe then maintain that floating position until help arrives,” Little said. “Then for kids anywhere from 1 to 6 (years old), once they are really walking, we can focus on teaching them a swim, float, swim survival method.”

In that method, a child will learn to swim for a short period then float on his or her back to rest and repeat that process until help arrives or a way out of the water can be reached.

Because Little works with children who are so young, she is well-versed in teaching those youngsters non-verbal reinforcement. The lessons are short and frequent because that structure has been proven to be best for retention and because the teaching process is based so much on trial and error, Little is always extremely close by.

“When working with children, they’re not following verbal instruction,” Little said. “You’re teaching using touch and reinforcement, just like any other sensory motor skill. It’s sort of a trial and error where they try and whatever they’ve done succeeds or doesn’t then you reinforce what their goal and aim is.”

The result of ISR is every child of every ability will learn how to save him or herself in the water, which Little calls a guarantee. Even children with disabilities can be taught these life-saving skills.

“It gives you peace of mind,” said Lindsay McKelvey, whose 1-year-old Madison is currently taking lessons from Little. “In an instant, you could turn your back and they fall in the water. Especially if it’s busy and there’s a lot going on, she would at least be able to do what she needed to do until I could get to her. That would be a peace of mind for anyone, especially during the summer.”

But learning in a pool with Little close by is obviously a much different scenario than what a child would be in if he or she fell into an open body of water. However, Little said the program doesn’t just teach children skills; it teaches them confidence in those skills.

“The first week is trust-building week,” Little said. “We never set a child up to not succeed in getting air. If I’m just trying to get them to swim around and get to the wall, I wouldn’t leave them by themselves. They turn and it’s there, so you’re building that trust and confidence.

“I’ve instructed children who have had a near-drowning experience, and it’s a totally different lesson approach. They do have a true anxiety and fear about the water, so you have to take it a lot slower. Every time you place them in a certain situation, they’re going to succeed in whatever they’re trying to do. Once they’ve got their confidence, they’re good to go.”

With accidental drowning being such a fear for parents, Little makes sure to take every possible step to ensure not just the safety of the children but also the comfortability of them and their parents. She is recertified every year; she asks for children to take refresher courses; she includes parental education in her lesson.

“To begin with, I was a little nervous,” said Haley McKelvey, whose 22-month-old daughter Isla Rose is in the program. “But Lauren was very thorough in sending videos and showing us how it works. It’s a national program, so we had to register her to do it and she’s not had any issues. Lauren watches to make sure she doesn’t intake too much water; she checks her feet and different parts of her body the whole time she’s training and we’ve just seen so much program. This is only her second week, and she’s already learned a ton.”

And that learning process is what keeps Little coming back to ISR and why she wanted to bring it to Lake Martin when she moved here.

“It’s reward to see kids go from not having any skills at all,” Little said. “They’re kind of fussing and crying that first week to get in the water then they’re fussing and crying because they don’t want to get out of the pool. Also to see the relief of the parents, to know they don’t have to worry about their child if they slip off the dock or side of the pool or they wander off, that is very rewarding for me. It’s a lifelong skill for fun in the water.”

For more information, contact Little at l.rene@infantswim.com

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.