For most children swimming lessons are a rite of passage along with learning to ride a bike and to tie your own shoes.
But for many children with life-limiting conditions, the cold temperature of a public pool and the risk of picking up an infection means learning to swim is not an option.
Until now that is.
Children at Derian House Children’s Hospice can now take part in one-to-one swimming lessons and earn special certificates in the brand new service – thought to be the first of its kind.
The lessons take place in the hospice’s accessible hydrotherapy pool which is heated to the temperature of a warm bath.
Even youngsters who have a tracheostomy (a hole made in the front of the neck, which allows a tube to be inserted into the windpipe to help you breathe) can join in the fun thanks to extra safety precautions put in place by swimming teacher Caroline Williamson.
Six-year-old Riziah Moazzeny, from Chorley, is the first child to have swimming lessons at the hospice and has already earned her first certificate.
Born with a rare condition called Heterotaxy Syndrome, causing her internal organs to be abnormally arranged and her heart to mirror itself with two left sides, Riziah was unable to have swimming lessons as she passed out from the cold in public swimming pools.
Riziah’s mum, Naomi Moazzeny, said: “Riziah comes from a long line of swimmers. Her grandad – my dad – is a long distance swimmer and a swimming instructor. My brother and I are keen swimmers too.
“Riziah’s brother and sister both have swimming lessons, and Riziah felt frustrated because she wasn’t able to have them too.
“I remember going to a pool party and Riziah could see all the children having fun and splashing about – I could tell she wanted to join in. When she got into the pool she had to get out within minutes because of how cold she was.
“Because of her condition, Riziah struggles to cope with the cold temperatures of public swimming pools. It can tire her easily and cause her to pass out. She’s susceptible to infections too, which means public pools can be a risk.
“Now that Riziah can have swimming lessons at Derian House it helps her to feel included. All of her friends have swimming lessons, so now she can talk about them just like they do.
“She’s made so much progress, it’s great to see her kicking her legs as she glides. At first we couldn’t get her off the top step!
“Riziah got her first swimming certificate after she had her first proper shower – a phenomenon! She hates the shower at home. She’s been getting used to having water on her head while in the pool at Derian and it has been really positive for her.”
Caroline Williamson, who works at Derian House as a swimming instructor and wellbeing and play worker, said: “Swimming is an essential life skill that isn’t accessible for many children and young people with additional needs. We don’t know any other children’s hospices who offer swimming lessons to the children they care for.
“It’s fantastic that we can now teach children at Derian to swim, just like their friends, in a safe and clean environment. The pool’s warm water can ease muscular aches and pains and support movement, and the lights and music create a calming atmosphere.
“The lessons are one-to-one and are adapted to each individual child’s needs. Using the pool is beneficial for independence, motor development, self-esteem and emotional wellbeing.
“You can see how much more confident Riziah has become in the water. She has been doing really well – we’re all so proud of her.”
Derian House looks after more than 450 babies, children and young people with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions from across the North West.
The charity costs £5.7 million to run every year and yet only receives a fraction of this funding from the NHS, relying heavily on the generosity of its supporters to continue to look after families who need it most.