We’ve covered Infant Swimming Resource, or ISR, in the past. At Life Saver Pool Fence, we’re big supporters of swimming lessons and ISR. On each episode of Child Safety Resource, we interview a person who is striving to keep children safe. So it is fitting that today’s guest is ISR instructor Stacy Van Santen-Barton.
In the video below, you’ll see that we interviewed Stacy live during one of her lessons! You can watch her full conversation with Life Saver Pool Fence‘s president, Eric Lupton, right here:
Learning About ISR
During the interview, Stacy explained why she has such high respect for Infant Swimming Resource:
“I became a part of the ISR family in 2007, through lessons for my daughter. I was so thankful for the positive impact Kendall’s survival swimming skills had on our lives. We walked away with such a feeling of accomplishment and confidence. I felt compelled to become a part of the ISR family and help with their mission – to ensure that not one more child drowns.”
Typically, ISR provides each child with specialized one-on-one attention. These lessons are customized to the developmental level of each individual child. It’s a very effective way to keep very young children safer in the water.
- Babies who are 6 months to 1-year-old will learn to:
- hold their breath underwater
- roll onto their back to float
- rest and breathe without panicking.
- Once children are able to walk, usually at around 1-to-6 years of age, instruction can become more advanced. In addition to the earlier lessons, they’ll learn to:
- swim with their head down and their eyes open
- roll onto their backs to float, rest and breathe, then resume swimming until they reach the side of the pool or are rescued.
To learn more about Infant Swimming Resource, be sure to visit the official website.
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Below is a direct transcript of the Child Safety Resource interview with Stacy Van Santen-Barton from June 28th, 2018:
Eric: And we are live. So, we’ve been here since like 9:00 a.m. about an hour and a half, and we’ve been interviewing moms who have been going through ISR lessons with Stacy and Brett…
Stacy: And Brett
Eric: And, it’s been kind of cool. I’ve actually never been at a pool where they do a bunch at one time. I’ve seen individual lessons…
Stacy: They are all individual lessons.
Eric: Well, I mean, I’ve never seen them in a group setting, how about that?
Stacy: Yeah, and the reason it looks like what it looked like, is because Brett has her students, I have my students…
Eric: Right, but they’re all one at a time, obviously.
Stacy: They are all …we are all working one at a time with the students. We have older siblings that have finished the ISR lessons and Brett brings her kids to lessons too during the summer, so they often will get in the pool and play around. But they’re skilled and our eyes are on them but yeah, it kind of is a different setting here, because I call it romper room in the pool.
Eric: But it works.
Stacy: And, you know what I like about this environment, is that there’s a lot of commotion, there’s a lot of noise and there’s a lot of waves and movement. So, if you’re at a pool party, the body of water is not gonna be still and I want those babies to feel that water and that movement and still be able to maintain that floating posture. And so, for me, I like that environment.
Eric: So, what made you decide to do ISR?
Stacy: So, my oldest daughter who is gonna be 12 in October, my husband and I knew as soon as we were pregnant… we live around water… we want her in swimming lessons. But, I didn’t know it what age or whatever so…
Eric: What time, the whole thing?
Stacy: I didn’t know any of it.
Eric: Just wanted to swim.
Stacy: I just knew we need her swim. So, I googled infant swimming lessons and the first thing that popped up with ISR and our instructor and Jupiter, Joni Harp. So, I called her and I was a new mom and I didn’t want to have to travel and I didn’t want my kid to go to a group lesson and I said, “Do you do private lessons?” And, she said “Yes”, and I said, “Okay, that’s what we want”, and she’s like, “okay, it’ll be $500 a week for me to come to your pool” and I was like, “Ah, no. So, how much kid is it gonna be if I come to you?” And she’s said, “125” and I said, “I’ll see you whenever.” So, we put… Kindra as an infant, she was 7 months old. So, I saw the rollback and float process happened and I was absolutely astounded by what I was seeing, and I would find that I was getting to the lessons earlier and I was staying later just because, wow, I couldn’t believe it. And, the next year, Kindra went back to learn how to swim, float swim, she was walking. And again, I was there early, stayed late, watched. It was fascinating, and I just decided I have to do this. Like, I have a degree in Veterinary Technology and a degree in interior design, and I own an apartment complex, so… I’ve got a lot on my plate but when I saw that I thought, I’m gonna do it. So, Joni trained me and I was well on my way and I got pregnant with Lindsay, worked 9 to 6 the summer I was pregnant with Lindsay, that was a long day for the full summer. I did not teach my children how to swim, we’re lucky enough to have enough ISR instructors in our area. So, Joni again, taught Lindsay how to roll back and float, swim float swim, and then when I had Chase, I took him to Kelly Roo…
Eric: You felt better to have someone else do it?
Stacy: I do. If you have the option… there are instructors that don’t have anybody near them, so when they trained, if they have the opportunity then the master instructor can help them train their child. But, we are the parents and we are the protectors, so I don’t want to be the bad guy to my babies when they think mama is there to rescue me. So, I was fortunate enough to have other instructors that can be that person, but I would come home and practice at home once… and they’re always happy in the pool. Usually, the crying is mostly because it’s the instructor asking them to do things that might be outside of their comfort zone, but it’s in a safe environment, it’s structured and it’s geared towards that child’s individual needs. That kind of separates ISR from other programs. It’s very individually based, and I can get in the pool thinking today I’m gonna work on a float with this child, and I realize, wait, they’re not swimming anymore. So, we’re gonna target something else today; we’re not floating today, we’re swimming today. So, I always have a game plan but it changes based on that child, daily.
Eric: Right. It’s funny you talked about finding your niche. Casey who does the **, he has a degree in psycho biology, and then he has a minor in commercial music.
Stacy: Wow, so diverse.
Eric: Yeah, and it’s also a plumbing contractor. Pool fence was not in his cards, but you know, you come across something you decide that…
Stacy: Your passion…
Eric: What you’re meant to do, and…
Stacy: It is…This has definitely become a passion in the combination of ISR and live like Jake, and how they have worked together so far, and I know you’re gonna do an interview with Carey but, so far, this year …not this year, the last four years of the foundation, we are a little over 1,100 scholarship.
Eric: That’s fantastic.
Stacy: Yes, it’s amazing. In 22 states. So, you know, they live like Jake BOGO is being branded, and people are talking about it and occasionally, we’ll get a call from live like Jake supporters saying, “I was in Disneyworld and somebody had a live like Jake’s shirt on” or “I saw a bumper sticker that said live like Jake” and it makes us feel good to know this a message is getting out there, and people are realizing the importance of the layers of protection, you know, I am …we don’t drown proof children, ISR is one of the last layers of protection. But, you know, adult supervision fails, door locks and alarms fail, siblings they you know… kids are curious, they crawl up on chairs; cool fences. I mean, I’m… I don’t just talk about pool fence as I talk about self-latching gates. That’s so important to me because, cool guy comes in, doesn’t have time to clip the little thing and you know, our big sister comes in under Clips it and leaves it open and then the curious little toddler crawls inside so…
Eric: We always say if you have an older sibling who’s gonna go in or out of the pool, or a husband who can’t put the toilet seat down, then you should have a self-closing gate.
Stacy: So basically, everyone should have a self-closing gate.
Eric: Literally everyone. So, I was speaking to the ISR, but what first, talk about what live like Jake is and then I wanted to ask you kind of what your role is there.
Stacy: Okay, so Live Like Jake is a foundation that was started four years ago, started because the Morrison family lost their little boy Jake to a drowning, Jake had had traditional swim lessons but he wasn’t a big fan of them and so, they just decided that’s hold off. We don’t have a pool and we don’t live on the water so why… why continue these lessons? Well, they did go on vacation and where they were staying with their family, they lived on the intercoastal and they did have a pool. And, somehow, someway, Jake escaped and Carrie was nursing Julia at the time; he was three months, and heard ‘where’s Jake’. And, it took them… took them about 30 minutes to find Jake who had wandered down the dock and fell off. So, Carrie decided, I can’t let this happen to anybody else. She enrolled Julia when she was about 7 months… 8 months with me in lessons; I’ve got her rolling back and floating, and the foundation took off. I mean, and then of course Josie came back for her roll back and float, but her girls are little mermaids. They’re just absolutely adorable, and I love having Carrie close to me. I’m so lucky because, she’ll just pop in for a visit and she is a ray of light and she brightens up whatever room she walks into and has been able to turn the ultimate tragedy into something amazing.
Eric: And so, live Lake Jacobs scholarships, right?
Stacy: So, the money that we raise… our biggest fundraiser is our 5k which is usually Mother’s Day weekend. We host it in Abaco and Jupiter, and the money we raise for that pays for the scholarships. The ISR instructors that accept those scholarships also discount our rate deeply, like 50%. So, Live Like Jake pays 50%… sometimes the parents that are able can afford it, they’ll pay, some pay $5 a week to us and then Live Like Jake pays $45. So, we work it out, but the instructor gets $50 a week. However, it works out. And, we also… Carrie is really good about if she finds out that there’s been a drowning, she will reach out to the parents in a very tactful way, and just say I’m here for you if you need it, I’m shoulder to cry on, you know, I’ve been through this and I know what you’re going through. And, we’ve helped with medical expenses for non-fatal drowning, we purchased a swing for one child, we purchased a hyperbaric chamber for one child; so it’s not just scholarships although that’s the vast majority of where the money goes.
Eric: Yeah, and I know that because she does get in contact with other people, we’ve been able to donate some pool fences
Stacy: Absolutely. Yes, you guys have been so generous with… I mean, I make the call and I’m a little nervous to ask and there’s like no question, like yes, give him the fence; and the people are so appreciative. But, it’s doing what I do and until I see that these kids at mine are skilled, it’s very difficult for me to sleep at night because I’m worried that oh my gosh is something gonna happen. And so, that pool fence, that added layer of protection; and I have started since we’ve been in contact, I asked, do you have a fence? And, I have one family who I want to put you in touch with. They bought a house and they the previous owners took the pool fence out, so the holes are there they just need to fence. And, they should be contacting you; they’re out of town this week but I’ve already given him your information.
Eric: I know one thing Justin Barnett was worried about what he contacted me was, all of the parents on waiting lists we’re waiting for ISR, and…
Stacy: We need more inspectors
Eric: And more instructors. And, he’s like, I don’t want kids to drown waiting for lessons. Yeah, so, he wanted to you know, connect with us to do pool fences. So, they would have a layer of protection…
Eric: Right, so you know, at least until they get lessons so there’s something in place, and then I always afterwards but…
Stacy: Yeah, the pool fence should always stay up because, you know, there’s no guarantee that an ISR child who was completely skilled isn’t gonna bump their head and fall in and no swimming lessons are gonna right fix that.
Stacy: So, the pool fence with the locking gate, self-latching, is absolutely key, but that’s a great idea. I mean, when… I’ve got a waiting list of about twenty students right now and I am, please watch them like a hawk, which everybody says, ‘oh, we do, we do”
Eric: Everyone watches their kids
Stacy: Everybody does, but we also take showers, we also go to the bathroom, we cook dinner, we usually you sleep
Eric: Sleep occasionally
Stacy: We sleep occasionally, you do…and kids are just …you think they’re safe in their room and you’re asleep, and they get out of their crib and wandering and the door wasn’t locked, and there’s no alarms and there’s no pool fence and in they go.
Stacy: You know, and the other thing people… when you’re on vacation, you know, you can’t let your guard down on vacation because they’re in a different environment; like when Carrie was on vacation, they don’t have a pool vacation, and this scenario is completely different when you’re out of town. Disney World, Hotel pools, it’s crazy.
Eric: Different environment at a routine
Stacy: At a routine, absolutely. And mom and dad are chilling out, there on vacation and you know, we never tell our parent …we never want our children that we skill to use their skills, but we have over 800 documented cases and that’s just what the parents would’ve written in to ISR. I know several of my parents have text me in the middle of the night or next day and said, “oh my gosh, thank you so much Stacy. So-and-so fell in the pool and immediately rolled back to float” and I mean, that does my heart good you know. I mean, I don’t want you to have to use them because that means some layer protection in that barrier broke down, that’s where these lessons come in. But, they also are fun, once the children are skilled they’re laughing and having fun, and there they are little fish. And I’ve …Nixon and I would dive down to the bottom of an eight-foot pool like it’s nothing. So, but, you start them young and you get those results.
Eric: And, that’s why you have multiple layers of protection, right?
Eric: Because, there’s a you know, as many as you have, you come as close to a failsafe system as possible, but you can’t drown proof the pool or the child
Eric: And… but, you can get close, right? And, the more you have, the better.
Stacy: Yeah, and right now because we the leading cause of death and children 1 to 4 is drowning, if in my lifetime I even see it’s the second leading cause…
Eric: Which it was a few years ago
Stacy: You’re making a difference. But, right now I try Carrie, and I do our best; all of our ISR instructors do our absolute best to prevent it and every day, there’s another drowning and another drowning and another drowning. And I think, how could… how did we miss reaching that family you know. And, you can’t …money isn’t an issue at this point because they’re scholarships available. How did we break… what broke down? What went wrong? And, I mean, our hearts… when we see it, they sink, because we know it’s preventable.
Eric: And it’s interesting that there’s not like cultural, I’m gonna say stigma; like, if you put your baby in a car without a car seat
Eric: Right, people would lose their minds. You’d be the worst mom ever. Like, you’d go to somebody’s house and they’ve got a two-year-old and no fence, and no one bats an eye, right? Why you think that is? Why do you think there’s a discrepancy even though more kids drown in pools than [die, right]?
Stacy: Do you know what I hear a lot? They’re ugly, I don’t want to see it; and that just I… I mean, my brain goes to, oh my gosh, like what is the alternative? It’s just even uglier than not having a pool fence, right? I mean, the alternative is, if that child reaches the pool because you didn’t have an ugly pool fence, and you’re gonna have an ugly funeral. And, that’s the reality of it, I’m sorry, but it’s the truth. You know, there’s no excuse to not have a fence.
Eric: And, I mean, I’m biased but you know, it’s not like a wrought-iron like… it’s not like this, you know, it’s a… it’s managed to see through, if you take it down to parties, you know, it’s not the prison that people associate with.
Stacy: No, but still…asked a mom who was apprehensive to start their eight month old in lessons and she’s like, “I just think he’s too young”, and we were talking at the pool, and she said, I watched him all the time, and I’m watching him crawl out of the gate and I said, “your child that you watch all the time is crawling out of the gate, into the parking lot.” And, she signed him up the next day.
Eric: It’s about… the moms would scare me the most were the ones that say, I always watch my kids. Yeah, those moms scare the crap outta me.
Stacy: Yeah, they’re… I think they have good…
Eric: They mean well
Stacy: They mean well, but…
Eric: They’re delusional. Anything is possible
Stacy: Thank you, I think delusional is a perfect uh, a perfect word for that.
Eric: The ones who admit like yeah, there’s no way I can watch my kids 24 hours a day, I feel better about those moms.
Stacy: Yes, because they know and those are the people that have the layers are perfect protection in their…Bye Ms. Brett
Stacy: See you tomorrow.
Eric: Thanks you. So, what is your role here?
Stacy: My role at Live Like Jake is well… I’m on the Live Like Jake 5k committee, so we start planning out a year before the race happen; it’s a lot of work. It’s getting easier, this will be our fifth year in 2019 which we’re all excited. We had our first post-race committee meeting and the energy in that meeting is just so awesome. And then, I’m also on the board of directors for Live like Jake, so we all help make decisions. I mostly, with the foundation, work with Carrie and helping find instructors. Right now, it’s become a lot easier because so many people know about Live Like Jake; the instructor, so when the application comes in generally, there’s already an instructor’s name on it, so that’s easy for Carrie, she just goes through. But, there’s occasionally you know, no ISR instructor in that area, and then I’ll talk to the parents and hope that there’s one in training or that, you know, otherwise we try to find something comparable, because you don’t want them not to have lesson. But, I would say 90 or more percent of our lessons are ISR
Stacy: So, I’m like the ISR side with the Live Like Jake side, and Carrie and I are kind of a team; but we’ve got a fantastic team. Our committee and our board members are awesome and they’ve pretty much been there from the start.
Eric: That’s awesome. Very cool. Is there anything you want people to know?
Stacy: Um, again, I can’t stress enough the layers of protection and, you know, supervision, supervision, supervision. Please, don’t use floatation devices, puddle jumpers, armbands; it does create a false sense of security. ISR lessons are available; door locks way up high, alarms you can buy inexpensively at Home Depot, that when that door opens, and alarm sounds; there’s alarms you can put in a pool for movements. Obviously, the pool gates, then I would say survival lessons. I kind of look at it as, if a child’s in the house, how are they gonna get out. So, supervision fails. Then the door locks either weren’t installed or the door alarms aren’t working or turned on, and from there, the fence was left open if there’s a fence; if there’s not a fence, that’s a mistake. And then, they would find themselves in the body of water, that’s when self-rescue lessons come in. and, God forbid something happens and it doesn’t work out, you look in the body of water first and you know CPR. So, I mean, I can’t preach that enough and yet, still there’s drowning.
Eric: Yeah, I mean, I think if everybody did all five and a half, I call them, you know, driving would be a rare thing.
Stacy: I agree. And, we’re making it easier to access lesson, pool fences… supervision is what it is, you’re in charge of that. I mean constant supervision. Pool parties… if you’re gonna have a pool party, that’s real dangerous because everybody thinks everyone else is watching. They’re your child so if you’re not going to the pool party with your child, your child should not be there. But, segment and supervision is also really key, because you can appoint a water watcher. And so, I would say Erik, your water watcher and for ten minutes, you do not get on the phone, your eyes don’t leave the pool, you count heads, and no phone, no distractions, nobody’s going to talk to you, you are basically that person with your eyes on the whole. And, it’s only ten minutes and then someone else comes for ten minutes. And, that way, you know, that also can cut down a lot on the drowning tragedies.
Eric: I was at a party on Saturday and they had little kids and they weren’t doing the water watch thing. I end up sitting by the pool pretty much the entire time.
Stacy: Cause you can’t not. You know, yeah that’s how I feel when I go to a hotel on vacation, I’m like I want to relax and enjoy myself but I’m watching all these little kids and puddle jumpers and floaties with the parents over there feeling confident that their kids are safe because they’re in floatation devices, and they’re on their phones and doing whatever. And, once I figure out what parent goes with what child, and Carrie has been bold enough to casually go up to the parent and say, “Hey, who’s watching your child?”, you know. Because puddle jumpers come off, kids know how to take them off, they get out, they eat lunch, they think they’re safe, they jump back in the pool, and they vertically go straight down.
Eric: That’s true.
Stacy: It is. But it can all be fixed, people just have to start listening.
Eric: I think it’s a cultural thing, hopefully you know, these kids will all do ISR, and it’ll be in their heads when they have kids and I’ll be can have an automatic thing. I hope that’s what happens.
Stacy: Fingers crossed.
Eric: Awesome, well thank you so much.
Stacy: Welcome. Thank you for coming guys. You got to see some lessons first hand, that’s awesome.