A Rotorua girl with special needs has always been a water baby and now she is getting funding for one-on-one swimming lessons.

Shyla-Mei Corbett, 13, who has severe cerebral palsy affecting her balance and co-ordination, recently began weekly swimming lessons thanks to funding from the Halberg Disability Sport Foundation.

Young people who receive Halberg funding can pick any sport to pursue.

Shyla-Mei chose swimming because she loved the water and it was one of the few things she could do, her father James Corbett said.


"When we go to a lake or something, it'll be real cold out there and she'll still want to go for a swim.

"We pick straws and whoever gets the shortest one takes her out for a swim," Mr Corbett said.

The pool at the Aquatic Centre where Shyla-Mei was having her lessons was "nice and warm" though, he said.

In addition to swimming, which she first did when she was 3-months-old, Shyla-Mei often spent time around water while fishing with her father. She also has had a turn on a jet ski.

Her mother Nicole Corbett said Shyla-Mei had a go at everything.

"Whatever she is able to do, she'll do," Mrs Corbett said.

They were "rapt" when Halberg agreed to fund Shyla-Mei's swimming lessons for a couple of terms, and hoped to get help after that so the one-on-one sessions could continue.

Shyla-Mei needed a professional swimming teacher who focused only on her in order to learn, Mrs Corbett said.

Cherryl Thompson, the Halberg Disability Sport advisor for Rotorua, said the purpose of the funding was to inspire lifelong learning.

"We just try to get people started in sport," Ms Thompson said.

Anyone under 21 with special needs could apply for funding and "alleviate the barrier" stopping them from pursuing their chosen sport, Ms Thompson said.

While Shyla-Mei was swimming to keep confident around water and strengthen her body, some people went as far as the Paralympics after a head-start from Halberg, Ms Thompson said.

New Zealand Paralympic swimmers who had support from Halberg
Mary Fisher, who is visually impaired.
Cameron Leslie, born without full-formed arms and legs.
Sophie Pascoe, a below-the-knee amputee.