Little Michela Richards: 17-month old swimmer

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When Michela Richards wanders over to the edge of the swimming pool at the Switzerland County YMCA, sometimes adults who don’t know her get a little nervous. At just 17-months old, she shouldn’t be getting too close to the edge — but when she jumps right in, everyone really begins to take notice.

Astonished glances are now common place for Michela, who has been swimming and floating since she was 15-months old after completing a special survival training course that is taught by her mother, Jeanne Richards.

Jeanne Richard is a survival swimming instructor, a lifesaving course that teaches water survival skills to infants. Not only does the course teach a child how to survive an aquatic accident, but it also teaches them to love swimming.

The course teaches a child, sometimes as young as six months old, to survive in the water. Jeanne Richards says that national statistics show that 75-percent of all drowning victims are between 12 months and 35 months of age — so parents shouldn’t feel like their child is too young to learn these skills.

The first skills that a child learns in these survival sessions is to roll over onto his or her back and float, taking what instructors call the “breath of life”. Properly taught to perform this, a small child can survive in a pool by floating until help arrives. The child is also taught to get to the side of the pool and hang on, and older children are taught how to get out.

Critical situations are also taught to the child during the lessons. This includes having the child put into the pool in heavy clothing — similar to what they may have on if they accidentally fall into a swimming pool. This includes having the child wearing shoes, something that traditionally weighs down a person in the water.

Jeanne Richards said that the program is also educational for the parents, and urges everyone to carefully consider learning more about programs such as this one for their own children.

As for Michela Richards, she has been floating since she was eight months old, and is able to float in any form of water wearing any type of clothing, from a swimming suit to winter clothing.

At the pool, she loves to surface dive and retrieve toys and items from the water, and also loves to jump and dive off of the side of the pool.

“Michela is very independent,” Jeanne Richards says. “She loves the water. She’s a ‘can do it’ kid.”

Jeanne Richards says that Michela loves to simply swim around the pool, as well as participating in other types of water activities.

Out of the pool, Michela loves to draw and do other things that little girls like to do — playing with her baby dolls and playing with other children. She also loves being with her older brother, Michael, who is 18-years older than she is.

More information about survival swimming is available by calling Jeanne Richards at 427-9522.