•Hersam Acorn Newspapers• •
April 4, 2013
With pools in many schools and a commu-nity center off nearly every exit of I-95 and theParkway, there’s no shortage of places for kidsin Southwestern Connecticut to learn to swim. And the facility for Wings Over Water School of Swimming in Fairifeld might, at first glance, looklike others. But, being made for swim lessons, thepool is a maximum of 4.5 feet deep, the water is 90degrees, and the instructors are adults.“The people who work here, this is what theydo,” said Melissa Flannery, co-owner of the school,which also has a facility in Brewster, N.Y. “Nooffense to part-time swim instructors, but we don’thire high school students to teach or lifeguards toteach.” Instructors complete 40 hours of training inthe curriculum, plus monthly in-house trainings,and are certified in CPR and first aid.The staff also teaches from inside the pool. “It’s atotally different philosophy. If you want a child tobe underwater, the teacher needs to be in the water. We don’t teach from the deck,” said Flannery, add-ing that instructors also don’t push students whoaren’t comfortable in the water. “Sometimes you justneed to backtrack. We had this little guy who didhis first lessons dry. He never got in the water. Heneeded to establish that trust [with the teacher].”In other words, the approach isn’t “cookie cutter.Each one of those children is different. You haveto be open to seeing each individual child,” shepointed out.The school’s philosophy emphasizes students of allages experiencing the aquatic environment safely andwith joy, and instruction incor-porates the Swimplicity methodfor learning stroke development,tri-athlete training or adaptiveaquatics. The parent and tot pro-grams are particularly popular, asis the beginners program for ages6 and up, Flannery said.“This is where you will see thegreatest improvement in chil-dren. I always joke that the par-ent will give us a call when theirchild does their first cannonball.”The spring session will endin June, and Wings Over Wateroffers programs, as well asbirthday parties, year-round.Its Fairfield location, at 2221Black Rock Turnpike, can bereached at 203-212-3950 or via WingsOverWater.com.
Giving kids ‘Wings Over Water’
By Melissa Ezarik
At top: Young children discover the joy of swimming, safely, at Wings Over Water School of Swimming in Fairfield. Bottom: Melissa Flannery, ownerof Wings Over Water, helps a young student get in the swim of things.
It’s not uncommon for children to exhibit somefear or hesitation when first being introducedto swim classes. Melissa Flannery of Wings OverWater School of Swimming will say this to parentsof struggling kids: “If the goal is for your child tolearn to swim, you need to persevere. It’s a lifeskill, and it gets harder as the child gets older.”Cindy Freedman, co-owner of Angelfish Therapy(AngelfishTherapy.com), which provides aquatictherapy and swim lessons to children with sensoryissues and other special needs at five Connecticutlocations, offers these possible strategies for over-coming common roadblocks:• For children who can’t take their feet off thepool bottom, which is due to struggles with thebuoyancy of the water taking away their gravity:try small half-pound ankle weights or canvas ten-nis shoes so they can feel where their legs and feetare in space. To start, have them sit at the stepsand move their feet up and down. Then have them“make” a choo-choo train on the side of the pooland explain that the water makes their feet float,but their bodies are safe.• For those with swimming abilities but a fearof going under water: have the child lay on hisside, cheek in the water, and then turn and blowbubbles. Wipe his face firmly with your hand, andthen his own hand, chin tucked. Explain that theuncomfortable feeling of the water will be washedaway.In any difficult situation, tangible reinforcements— such as reward pegs, coins, or toys — can begreat motivation for testing the water, Freedmansays.
Overcoming Water Fears