A dot­ing dad who stands by his son

Cape Times - - WORLD NEWS - Sakhile Nd­lazi

AC­CORD­ING to the Ox­ford Ad­vanced Learn­ers Dic­tio­nary, a hero can be de­fined as “a per­son, es­pe­cially a man, who is ad­mired by many peo­ple for do­ing some­thing brave or good”. This week’s hero ful­fils this def­i­ni­tion per­fectly.

Par­ents of chil­dren with special health-care needs are the un­sung heroes of our coun­try, and one of them is Peter Mabit­sela, 49, from At­teridgeville, Tsh­wane.

This week we cel­e­brate a par­ent who has, against all odds, stuck around for his special-needs child af­ter his di­vorce.

Mabit­sela ex­hibits re­silience, per­sis­tence, em­pa­thy and sup­port for his 22-year-old son Reamo­getswe, who was di­ag­nosed with cere­bral palsy af­ter birth.

Cere­bral palsy af­fects bal­ance, move­ment, and mus­cle tone. It af­fects the area of the brain that con­trols the abil­ity to move mus­cles.

Mabit­sela said that rais­ing a child with a dis­abil­ity was no easy task; there were chal­lenges and joys along the jour­ney.

“Hav­ing a child with cere­bral palsy is some­thing that no par­ent wishes on their child.

“We have been through many phys­i­cal and emo­tional strug­gles, but one thing I wish that other par­ents would un­der­stand is we don’t walk out of our door with a ‘cere­bral palsy’ sign on our backs.

“This is our nor­mal, and it isn’t un­til we no­tice other peo­ple star­ing that we un­der­stand we are per­ceived as ‘dif­fer­ent’ from typ­i­cal fam­i­lies.

“My son is funny, silly, smart, de­fi­ant, kind-hearted, and de­ter­mined. He is not de­fined by cere­bral palsy, and nei­ther is our fam­ily.”

Mabit­sela di­vorced in 2012 and got cus­tody of his three chil­dren.

This week he shared how, ev­ery morn­ing, he changes Reamo­getswe’s nap­pies, and washes and feeds him.

He said what was dis­turb­ing was the fact that many black par­ents still at­tached dis­abil­i­ties to witch­craft. He was aware some par­ents hid their chil­dren out of shame and fear of stig­ma­ti­sa­tion.

“We need to cel­e­brate our kids. They too are hu­man. They just need special care,” he said.

“Our chil­dren, es­pe­cially men­tally dis­turbed and phys­i­cally hand­i­capped ones, face the chal­lenges of be­ing ne­glected, dumped and sex­u­ally abused by their par­ents and the com­mu­nity,” the fa­ther said.

Mabit­sela ad­mit­ted par­ent­ing was one of the hard­est jobs in life.

“From my years of car­ing for a child with special needs, I make ev­ery ef­fort to help fam­i­lies nav­i­gate the in­tri­ca­cies of our health care and ed­u­ca­tion sys­tems.”

Shar­ing some key takeaways, he said: Par­ents and care­givers can ex­pect to take on nu­mer­ous, unique re­spon­si­bil­i­ties that may last a child’s life­time.

Rais­ing a dis­abled child takes time, ef­fort, em­pa­thy, and pa­tience.

Par­ents should learn ev­ery­thing they can about cere­bral palsy. They need to know how it af­fects move­ment, the un­der­ly­ing causes, how it is treated and how chil­dren with the con­di­tion de­velop dif­fer­ently from “nor­mal” chil­dren.

DED­I­CA­TION: Peter Mabit­sela, 49, with his son, Reamo­getswe, 22, who has cere­bral palsy. Mabit­sela says par­ents should not be ashamed of their special needs chil­dren.

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