It’s a swim school that’s attracted attention for its controversial methods.
The Kids Aquatic Survival School is focused on teaching kids to save themselves from drowning. Children do the lessons fully clothed, and they’re made to go under water sooner than in other swim schools.
Now, some of the neighbours of the Wollongong franchise of the school are complaining about the sounds that come from the children.
“The extreme nature of the teaching methods causes participating children an inordinate degree of distress and discomfort,” Ben Cornwell told the Illawarra Mercury.
“It sounds like they’re torturing these kids. The inevitable cries, screaming, gagging that results is having a disastrous impact on my family’s well-being and state of mind.”
Cornwell says he and his wife can’t work from home, and their two children are stressed from the hours of crying.
“My objection to the business is simply based on the disruption it is causing to the neighbourhood,” he tells Mamamia.
“I expect that Wollongong City Council will provide a decision on the complaints lodged by affected residents in due course.”
Another neighbour, Jenelle Livet, has also made complaints.
“It’s just heart-wrenching. The kids sound very distraught and I don’t want to be in my own home and have to feel so upset for other people’s kids.”
She says it’s all about the noise.
“There have been a lot of people saying it is good for the community, which it may be,” Livet tells Mamamia, “but not in our backyard, as it is affecting our stress levels, etc.”
The owner of the swim school, Rachelle Beesley, is aware some children find her methods uncomfortable. But she defends that.
Listen: The latest episode of our parenting podcast This Glorious Mess. (Post continues after audio.)
“Just because a child cries, it’s not because they’re getting abused, it’s because they’re being pushed out of their comfort zone,” she tells the ABC.
Beesley says the focus of the school is on survival. It’s not about getting children feeling comfortable with the water or playing games. Children from the age of six months are taught to take a breath before entering the water and to float till help arrives. Children who are old enough to walk are taught to open their eyes under water and to dog paddle to the side of a pool.
“Our program is designed to give skill and competency, not a false sense of security because they’re in the water with a parent holding them,” Beesley adds.
She points out drowning is the number one cause of accidental death for children under four, and many children are also left permanently disabled by near-drownings.
“Some of our mums and dads get called child abusers, which is a horrible thing when they’re trying to give their child a skill to save their life.”
Since word of the neighbours’ complaints hit the news, parents have come to the swim school’s defence.
One mum, who only wants to be known as Sarah, says she did a program like this as a baby almost 30 years ago.
KASS is not like this kind of swim school, where parents are in the water with their children. Photo via iStock.
"As a result, I am a very confident swimmer," she adds.
Sarah says her kids are booked to start at the school in April, and she would be "devastated" if the news story jeopardised the business.
"I understand the noise could be annoying, but she's enclosing the pool. Children scream their lungs out at conventional swimming lessons as well. We are not bad parents for choosing to help our kids save themselves."
Meanwhile another parent, Brooke Sharland, has praise for the school.
"Yes, children cry and scream. My son still screams every lesson. But I would rather hear my son scream than not hear him at all," she says.
"People really do need to think before they comment on this swim school," Sharland adds to Mamamia. "It truly is amazing."