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Oxford Woman Teaches Toddlers to Just Keep Swimming

Video courtesy of Rachel Rowe
By Talbert Toole
Lifestyles Editor
The art of swimming is no easy task. But with the help of Oxford resident Jala Ozbirn babies, toddlers and children are learning the essential techniques of swimming, safety and injury prevention.
Twelve years ago, Ozbirn and her mother were the first two Mississippian residents to be certified as Infant Swim Resource (ISR) instructors, she said.
At the time, Ozbirn’s sister was living in Tampa with a 3-year-old and 11-month-old who she had enrolled in the ISR program. The swimming program is overwhelmingly popular in Florida, according to Ozbirn.
After seeing the success of her sister’s children in the program, Ozbirn and her mother deemed it necessary to become instructors in order to teach children in their home state the valuable lessons of knowing how to swim.
Currently, Mississippi still has very few instructors. Ozbirn covers not only Oxford but Ripley, New Albany and Tupelo. Her mother covers both Ripley and New Albany with the addition of Booneville.
“We definitely need more instructors,” Ozbirn said.
Ozbirn first started with 20 students during the summer on average. Now, she has had 130 students enrolled this summer for swimming classes Monday through Friday in 10-minute lesson intervals at Goose Creek Club
Children first learn how to swim in summer clothes and then once skilled move on to swimming in their winter clothes. The students learn how to swim in a variety of clothes because accidents, such as falling into the pool, can happen year round, Ozbirn said.
“Most accidents happen when kids aren’t intended on swimming,” she said. “They’re fully clothed and they fall in.”

Ozbirn first started with 20 students during the summer on average. Now, she has had 130 students enrolled this summer for swimming classes Monday through Friday in 10 minute lesson intervals, at Goose Creek Club. Photo courtesy of Goose Creek Club.

In the past, there have been more than 4,000 child deaths due to swimming accidents, according to the ISR website. In 2016, the Center for Disease Control reported that the number one leading cause of death for children 1 to 4 years old was an unintentional injury.
Ozbirn teaches children as early as 6 months old, she said. The technique isn’t verbally based. Instead, she uses sensory motor techniques to teach children how to swim.
“It is based on touch and feel,” she said. “Because, obviously, you aren’t going to tell a 6-month-old how and what to do.”
Although older children can communicate, Ozbirn said the sensory-motor technique is still applied whether the child is 1 or 3 years old.
The training to become a certified ISR instructor can be rigorous. It is a 6- to an 8-week program that takes place Monday through Friday, according to Ozbirn.
Students of the program not only learn how to teach the special skill set needed for instructing swimmers, but they also learn child psychology, which benefits the sensory-motor technique.
“[The technique ] is proven and it is effective,” Ozbirn said.
For more information on ISR, visit their website. For more information on Ozbirn’s teaching lessons, contact her at j.ozbirn@infantswim.com.

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