A dot­ing dad who stands by his son

Un­sung hero stuck around for spe­cial needs child af­ter divorce

Pretoria News - - 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”.

Well, this week’s hero ful­fils this def­i­ni­tion per­fectly. Par­ents of chil­dren with spe­cial health­care needs are the un­sung he­roes of our coun­try, and one of them is Peter Mabit­sela, 49, from At­teridgeville.

And this week we cel­e­brate an un­sung 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.

Cere­bral palsy can hap­pen when that part of the brain doesn’t de­velop as it should or when it is dam­aged at about the time of birth or very early in life.

Most peo­ple with cere­bral palsy are born with it.

Mabit­sela said 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 other par­ents would un­der­stand is that 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 full cus­tody of the three chil­dren.

This week he shared how every morn­ing he had to change Reamo­getswe’s nap­pies, and wash and feed him.

He said what was dis­turb­ing was the fact that many black par­ents still at­tached dis­abil­i­ties to witchcraft.

He said he was aware that some par­ents hid their chil­dren out of shame and for fear of stig­ma­ti­sa­tion.

“Lock­ing the chil­dren up is not only detri­men­tal to their de­vel­op­ment but is also a vi­o­la­tion of hu­man rights, and is pun­ish­able by law.

“Chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties have var­i­ous tal­ents which can be ex­ploited. 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 that par­ent­ing was one of the hard­est jobs and par­ent­ing a child with spe­cial needs came with added chal­lenges.

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

Shar­ing some key take­aways, he said:

There is no one-size-fits-all ad­vice on how to raise chil­dren with cere­bral palsy.

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 needed to know how it af­fected move­ment, the un­der­ly­ing causes, how it was treated and how chil­dren with the con­di­tion de­vel­oped dif­fer­ently from “nor­mal” chil­dren.

In ad­di­tion to learn­ing the ba­sics, par­ents needed to know the ins and outs of their child’s spe­cific con­di­tion.

“No two chil­dren with cere­bral palsy are the same when it comes to their move­ment and other dis­abil­i­ties,” Mabit­sela added.

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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