Florida had 21 drowning fatalities involving children from Memorial Day through Labor Day in 2018, according to data gathered by the USA Swimming Foundation. The state is tied with Texas for the most drowning deaths in the nation.
That number is down from 2017, when Florida had 25 child fatalities from drowning.
The state with the next highest number, California, had 11 drowning deaths involving children in 2018, despite having almost twice the population of Florida.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 46% of reported drowning fatalities of children under 15 years old occurred in a residential pool. As states with warmer climates tend to have a higher rate of residential pool ownership, it’s no surprise that drowning injuries are more prevalent in those areas.
All of which highlights the importance of children in these warmer climates having the ability to swim.
Melissa Peadon — or Missie, as she usually goes by — is a certified Infant Swimming Resource (ISR) swim instructor in Okeechobee who helps children develop skills they might need in an emergency situation.
“Living in Florida, swimming is a necessary skill,” Ms. Peaden said. “It is crazy the amount of people who do not know how to swim. We are surrounded by water. There are rivers, canals, ponds, streams, oceans on all sides, and pools everywhere in our area. Not to mention when we get hit by hurricanes and have flooding. A child can drown in just one inch of water.”
ISR classes are not your typical swimming lessons. In ISR classes, infants from 6 months up to 12 months of age are taught to hold their breath under water, turn onto their backs and float unassisted. Children 1 though 6 years old are taught to expand from that into a swim-float-swim sequence. They learn how to hold their breath underwater, swim with their heads down, roll onto their backs to float, rest, breathe and roll back over to continue swimming until they reach the side of the pool and can crawl out of the water or be rescued by an adult.
According to data gathered by the Florida Department of Children and Families, from 2009 to 2018, five children died in Okeechobee from accidental drowning.
Missie says her goal is to prevent another child in Okeechobee from drowning.
“The younger they start, the better,” explained Ms. Peaden. “Even babies who are not yet walking can have a water accident. Too many children die each year from drowning, and what makes it even more sad is that it’s preventable. Drowning is the number one cause of death in children under 4, and 70 percent of preschoolers who drown were in the care of both parents at the time of the incident. That’s why I’m here. I can’t hear of another child drowning, especially in Okeechobee County.”
Children in Missie’s classes learn to swim not only in their bathing suit, but also while wearing their normal, everyday clothes, as most water accidents happen when a child is fully clothed.
Missie offers lessons daily, five days a week for 10 minutes a day, with each program lasting between four and eight weeks. Each lesson is uniquely tailored to the child’s needs based on a comprehensive assessment and continual monitoring of his or her health and skill attainment. She is currently running a 25% discount until the end of August.
To contact Missie to get more information or to sign up your child for ISR swim lessons, visit her website at WaterTurkeys.com, email her at M.Peaden@infantswim.com or call or text 863-634-7825.
Some other tips to keep you and your family safe:
• Install a four-sided fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate around all pools and spas.
Raulerson Hospital will host a Summer Safety Event on Monday, July 22, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the IRSC Dixon Hendry Campus, 2229 N.W. Ninth Ave. Learn CPR and hear water safety tips from the ER staff. Refreshments will be provided. This free event is open to the public, but space is limited so RSVP is required. To RSVP for the class, visit RaulersonHospital.com/calendar/ or call 863-763-9228.