When to start swim lessons

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When to start swim lessons

Parents often ask, "When can I begin formal swim lessons with my child?" It really depends on what your definition of swimming is and you realize what you can get out of swimming. From infancy, a child should be learning to associate water with pleasant experiences. They can begin baby steps toward breath control and the back float, although, this should be done very carefully and without causing distress to your child. Between the ages of one and three, a child should definitely be working on back floating; laying down, and accepting the position of being on their back, as well as, breath control conditioning. Until the age of about three or four, a child is not quite ready for formal swim strokes. This does not mean that they cannot develop a certain level of water safety. Between the ages of one and three, it's very important for a child to be comfortable with jumping into the water, rolling on to their back, and being able to get back to the side in a, sort of, self-rescue. It is important to remember that there is no such thing as a water safe child. There is no substitute for very close supervision and a parent or other adult should always be in the water with your child. At the age of about four or five, you can start training formal swim strokes. They can also learn pop-up breathing and doggy paddle style. It is never too early to begin swim training with your child. Again, positive associations over time make the process much easier for all children. If you wait, you could risk adversive reactions to the water which makes swim training longer and harder.

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Expert Bio

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Nicole Hill, MA

Behaviorist & Swim Instructor

Nicole Hill, Director of Autism Services and CEO of Brightwork ABA Therapy is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA).  Nicole has been working in the field of ABA since 2005.  She has a Master of Arts in Applied Behavior Analysis, a BA in Speech Communication, and a minor in Spanish.

Nicole has a broad range of experience stemming from working with children from birth through high school in a variety of capacities for over 15 years.  Nicole specializes in working with young children on the autism spectrum and their families, with particular focus on  early intervention including FBA’s, BIP’s, verbal behavior, DTT, natural environment teaching, play skills, social skills, and parent training. 

Nicole originally began her work with special needs children in 1998 as a swim instructor for children who found learning to swim especially challenging.  With this experience, Nicole founded SwimFit Babies & Kids (swimfit.org), a program that uses techniques founded in ABA to teach swim techniques. 

She is an active member of Applied Behavior Analysis, International (ABAI) as well as California Association for Applied Behavior Analysis (CalABA).

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