The Swim Professor

Jim Reiser, M.S.

3 Success Strategies for Teaching Young Children to Swim

If you are teaching a young child to swim between the ages of 3 and 5 years of age, there are a number of success strategies every swim teacher should know.  In my new learn-to-swim DVD, SWIM 101 – How to Teach Children to Swim and to be Safer in the Water–you can see video of exactly how we do it.

In today’s blog post, I’m going to give you a sneak preview of some of the exciting teaching techniques that I have tested, tried, and proven at Swim Lessons University:


Develop the Confidence in your Learn-to-Swim Students

Do you remember the story of the Little Engine that Could?  “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can . . . That is precisely the mindset your student must have if you are going to be successful as a swim teacher.

How do you develop confidence in a new, shy, or even scared young swimmer?  The next four success strategies are sure to get you off to a great start!

(For more information on how to help children overcome their fears, look in my blog archive and you will find an article on just that.   I also have an audio CD program called “From Tears to Cheers”.)


Try a Progressive Buoyancy Device

“Look at me!  I’m doing it!  I’m doing it!”

Is there anything more “confidence-boosting” than success?   Not much!  This is precisely ONE REASON why your students will progress MUCH FASTER if you use a progressive buoyancy device.   When a child can independently get from point “A” to point “B” without your assistance-his confidence will soar!  Not to mention his enjoyment.

I personally prefer a “progressive” buoyancy device like the SwimWays Power Swimmer or the Konfidence Wetsuit BECAUSE of two IMPORTANT REASONS:

#1 DEPENDENCY is NOT an issue when you use a progressive buoyancy device.   In other words, you give your student ENOUGH buoyancy to be successful but not too much that there is no challenge or progression involved.  Progressive practice makes perfect!

#2 PRACTICE TIME can still be maximized.  The number reason you haven’t learned to golf, or learned to fly a plane, or whatever-is because you haven’t practiced!  In learning to swim, this is the #1 REASON CHILDREN DON’T LEARN TO SWIM!  Because amateur teachers are doing one of two things:

  • Amateur Swim Teacher is sitting the student on the side of the pool (waiting for their turn).  In other words, the teacher is getting the child minimal reps.
  • Amateur Swim Teacher is holding the child or carrying him around the pool.  In other words, you aren’t letting the child feel what he/she has to do to move himself thru the water.

Professional Swim Teachers, on the other hand who understand this concept, will have their students learning through practice-quality practice and lots of it!

BUT WAIT, what about that “False Sense of Security?”  My response is simple:  If a child drowns because he couldn’t save himself, we failed as adults and caregivers to protect that child.

For more on making children safer in the water, you can get terrific water safety information from  I donate all the proceeds from my Safer Kids Water Safety Book and Safer Kids 101 CD to the fight against childhood drowning.  And lastly, my brand new Bathtub Baby 101 DVD has a whole section addressing water safety for parents.


Use Age-appropriate Kicking Activities with a Short Noodle & some FUN Props

In my new 2008 Swim 101 DVD and as well as the 1999 Home Swim School DVD, you can see video of some FUN, YET extremely effective ways to teaching kicking to the little ones.  Using the imagination and pretending is extremely stimulating for this age group, not to mention just kicking to kick is quite boring for this age group.  So at Swim Lessons University, we used our imagination and came up with some creative ways to make kicking fun!

One of several activities we do is called “LET’S GO GROCERY SHOPPING!”  You PRETEND with your students that they’re going to the grocery store with mommy and you pretend the noodle is their buggy.  Put 3 or 4 colorful, plastic grocery type items in the pool about 15 feet away from the starting point like carrots, ice cream cones, waffles, etc., which redirects their attention and makes learning fun.  When you say go, the children kick out with their noodle, get one grocery at a time, and kick it back and put it in a little grocery basket.   Of course this is repeated until all the floating groceries are put in the basket.

It’s very important the noodle is held properly and I recommend a short noodle, which we simply cut.  As seen in the Swim 101 video, the noodle is held in the center, right underneath the chin, with the elbows resting on top of the noodle.  We tell them “like chicken wings.”  By holding the noodle in this manner, not only do the children develop a propulsive kick, but they learn balance and how to move themselves about with their kick.

In the Swim 101 DVD Video, we also demonstrate a variety of activities as well as demonstrate some more secrets in how to teach the kick more effectively!  In addition, we cover fun and creative ways for teaching breath holding, breath control, in-line kick, back kick, swimming using both a pop-up and roll-over breath, and some safety skills that could save a child’s life.

Don’t miss my next blog where I will share more success strategies from the Swim 101 DVD Video!  Feel free to order your copy today at

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April 10, 2009 at 11:33 am Comments (0)

Swimming Lessons and Autism Spectrum Disorder

Jim Reiser, M.S., The Swim Professor
Vi Hendley, M.Ed., Autism Resource Specialist

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism is a life-long developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life. It is thought to be the result of a neurological disorder that affects functioning of the brain.

Symptoms & Characteristics can include:

  • Lack or delay in speech
  • Fascination with objects rather than people
  • Repetitive use of language
  • Odd or repetitive body movements or mannerisms (e.g., hand-flapping, twirling objects)
  • Resistance to physical contact
  • Decreased empathy
  • Little or no eye contact
  • Lack of interest in peer relationships
  • Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play

Having ASD makes it exceptionally difficult for individuals to communicate with others and relate to the outside world.

Autism is currently our nation’s most prevalent childhood developmental disorder. Recent studies from the Centers for Disease Control show that as many as one in 166 children born today are on the autism spectrum.

Is ASD Treatable?

ASD is treatable. Children do not “outgrow” ASD, but studies show that early diagnosis and intervention lead to significantly improved outcomes.

Introduction to Teaching Children with ASD

Children with autism are being turned down by the dozen in cities across America just like yours. Not because swim teachers don’t want to help, but because most swimming instructors don’t feel like they have the knowledge necessary to teach these special children successfully–and most of them don’t.

I recently teamed up with Vi Hendley, who brings in 28 years of teaching experience with individuals who have Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). In addition to some of the Success Strategies that we will share with you in this article, we a DVD called TEACHING CHILDREN WITH AUSTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER that you can order, which will afford you with the background and strategies you need to be successful, and so that you can leave your mark on a child that could change his life forever.



Review Parent/Provider Checklist Before Your First Class

Before you starting teaching a child with ASD, it is absolutely imperative that you have an understanding your student’s individual needs. To do this, take these three steps:

STEP #1:

Require the parent to complete the Student Learning Assessment
of the child’s individual needs. (You can purchase the form we use for just $5.00 on our website at

STEP #2:

Prior the first class—Review the Students Learning Assessment.


Make any necessary adaptations based on the Student Learning Assessment!

In our instructional DVD for swim teachers, Teaching Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, you can see real examples of how the Student Learning Assessment can help you.


Determine if You Have Enough Rapport

How do you do this? First, this may depend on the level of the ASD. If your student is high functioning, you can likely build rapport fairly easily by simply talking about his special interests.

In the DVD video, you can see howI learned from the assessment my student’s mother completed for me that he loved to pretend about SHARKS AND JELLY FISH. So before we even got in the water, I was able to develop a rapport with Phillip by talking about the sharks and jellyfish.

And he could hardly wait get in the pool and start pretending.


Implement the Exaggerated Affect

Kids with ASD characteristically have difficulty reading the facial expressions of others. So another strategy that’s proven to be effective is to exaggerate your facial expression. You can do this when giving instructions and most importantly when giving feedback.


Show it EXACTLY the Right Way—NEVER the Wrong Way

If you’re familiar with “The Swim Professor’s” Teach Like a Pro DVD, one of the techniques you can us so effectively when teaching young children to swim is the “Right way vs. the wrong way” technique. When your teaching children with ASD, however, it’s really best to avoid this technique.

One characteristic of children with ASD is they tend to pick up on irrelevant details. So you even have to be extra careful when demonstrating the right way that everything you show your students is precisely what you want them to do.


Use Visual Supports

In one ear and out the other, out of sight is out of mind. Because students with autism have difficulty with retaining auditory information, these old sayings are so true for children with ASD. And because children with ASD tend to be visual learners, it is so important to have your rules, techniques, and expectations in a visual format.

I was amazed at how effective these Visual Support cards were from the first time I saw Vi use them. On our DVD program, you can see how the children zero in on these. In fact, I like them so much, I asked Vi to pick her favorite cards and make them available for you. So if you would like to have your own personal set of Vi’s laminated visual supports, you can order them right on our website at

If you would like to learn more SUCCESS STRATEGIES for Teaching Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, you can order the brand new instructional DVD at

I hope some of the ideas that Vi and I shared with you today will help you be more effective and most importantly, make your classes more enjoyable for both you and your students.

April 8, 2009 at 11:32 am Comments (2)