A doting dad who stands by his son
Unsung hero stuck around for special needs child after divorce
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.