Understanding Submersions of Children

Submersion is a term used by swim instructors. It refers to learning skills as part of breathing techniques, such as blowing bubbles or holding their breath whilst underwater. You will often hear it mentioned during parent and baby classes, pre-school classes or during water safety week.

You may have heard this term referenced recently relating to concerns about a video on social media showing a swim instructor practicing an unacceptable submersion during a lesson.

Considering this, we feel it is important to explain how submersion is used by NS instructors in line with ASCTA/Swim Australia policy.

The introduction of babies and pre-schoolers to water must be very careful and gentle in order to prevent long-term fear of water being developed.

Submersion is likely to occur as part of aquatic activities when adults with babies and pre-schoolers move together in the water. When submersions are carefully introduced by specially trained teachers, they can be beneficial towards creating the best foundations for swimming, as well as helping develop water confidence and water safety skills.                                                                                                        

ASCTA/Swim Australia recognizes 3 classes of acceptable submersions:

Intentional submersion

Submersions intended as part of a structured session, but only carried out as baby or pre-schooler led, after accompanying adults have been briefed by the teacher in the observation of positive cues.

Pre-schooler initiated submersion

Activities led by the teacher such as jumping in, blowing bubbles, jumping from a raft may lead to submersions initiated by the toddler or pre-schooler. These are a few examples.

Accidental submersion

The baby/pre-schooler falls in or is submerged inadvertently due to loss of balance during shared activities with the accompanying adult. Teachers are specially trained to manage accidental submersions to avoid distress being caused to either the baby/pre-schooler or accompanying adult.

The Guidelines for Best Practice are:                                          

  • Intentional submersion should only take place when the baby/pre-schooler shows signs that he/she is ready, and only then as part of a fun exercise. If carried out at an inappropriate time, submersion may lead to distress and may result in a baby/pre-schooler experiencing long term fear of water.                                                                                                                   
  • Submersion practices should be progressive and should be stopped immediately if the baby/preschooler shows any signs of distress or unhappiness.                                                                                                              
  • Submersions should only take place with the active involvement of the baby/pre-schooler; it should not be attempted when the baby/pre-schooler is looking away or is unaware of what is about to happen. This why it is important to say “(Name) Ready go “

If you have any questions around submersion, best practices and your child please talk to the on-deck supervisor during your child’s lesson.

For more information on ASCTA/Swim Australia policies visit their website.