A doting dad who stands by his son
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.