Chinese mother refuses to abandon her disabled son, nurtures him all the way to Harvard


Parents should be their children’s advocates, and one mom in China ignored the detractors and never stopped supporting her son’s ambitions. It’s all come to fruition at Harvard University, where Ding Ding, born with a disability, is now enrolled in graduate school. Becoming a lawyer was the last thing most expected of him, but his mother always knew he could do it.

According to the South China Morning Post, Ding Ding was born with cerebral palsy. His mother, Zou Hongyan, still had high hopes for her newborn son. But the doctors, and even her husband, felt resigned to accepting that Ding Ding couldn’t thrive with his disability. So she got a divorce and kept pushing her son toward success.

The first few years were difficult, to be sure. According to the Mayo Clinic, “…cerebral palsy causes impaired movement associated with abnormal reflexes, floppiness or rigidity of the limbs and trunk, abnormal posture, involuntary movements, unsteady walking, or some combination of these.” Ding Ding didn’t start walking until he was three years old, according to People’s Daily Online.

Zou told the South China Morning Post that she didn’t accept her son not being able to use chopsticks. She worked with him until he got the hang of it, so he wouldn’t be embarrassed in social situations.

“Because he had inferior abilities in many areas, I was quite strict on him to work hard to catch up where he had difficulties,” she said.

Intellectually, Ding Ding was certainly keeping up. His mother had him busy learning characters and doing puzzles from age 2. He continued his pursuit of excellence, graduating from Peking University with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and Engineering in 2011 and continuing on to earn a J.D. from Peking University School of Transnational Law in 2015. Now, he’s part of the Master of Laws program at Harvard University. Ding Ding plans to eventually return to China, to work as a lawyer and perhaps, eventually, a professor.

Ding Ding told People’s Daily Online that his mom showed him what was possible. “I never imagined applying to Harvard—it was my mother who encouraged me,” he said.

[h/t South China Morning Post]

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About the Author
Haley Otman
Haley Otman is a news and features writer based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she roots for the University of Michigan Wolverines. A former broadcast news producer, Haley has 10 years of writing experience and has worked in both journalism and public relations.

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