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How a Chinese Single Mom Raised Her Disabled Son to Get Into Harvard

A devoted mom from China who helped her disabled son overcome major challenges in life has recently achieved another milestone: getting her son admitted to Harvard University.

Photo: Xinhua

Zou Hongyan’s son Ding Ding nearly suffocated and died due to a birth complication back in 1988. While the boy survived, the episode left him with cerebral palsy. According to Xinhua (via SCMP), hospital doctors in Hubei Province even suggested to Zou that she give the child up because according to them, rescuing him would be worthless as he would eventually grow up either with low intelligence or with a lifelong disability.

Photo: Xinhua

Zou’s husband also shared the doctors’ opinion and told her that Ding Ding would become more of a burden for the family. Zou, however, insisted on saving the boy, eventually causing the couple to get divorced soon after.

As a single mother, Zou was forced to work multiple jobs to support the family and pay for her son’s treatment. She took a full-time position at a college in Wuhan and worked part-time as a protocol trainer and even moonlighted as an insurance salesperson.

She also found time to regularly take Ding Ding to rehabilitation sessions and also studied therapeutic massage so she can work on her son’s stiff muscles. Zou also played brain-stimulating games and puzzles with him to improve his intelligence.

The persistent mother also made sure her son learned to overcome his disabilities as much as he can. Since Ding had problems controlling his hand movements, which made it difficult for him to use chopsticks, Zou trained him to be able to use them.

Photo: Xinhua

“I didn’t want him to feel ashamed about this physical problems,” she said. “Because he had inferior abilities in many areas, I was quite strict on him to work hard to catch up where he had difficulties.”

Now aged 29, Ding Ding is thankful for his mom’s love and devotion which helped him succeed despite his physical handicaps. Through his mother’s guidance, he said he overcame many challenges and even excelled in his academic studies.

In 2011, Ding graduated from Peking University’s Environmental Science and Engineering School with a bachelor’s degree. Then he enrolled for a master’s degree at the university’s International Law School. After that, Ding got himself a job and worked for two years to help his mom.

However, with his mother’s insistence, he applied to further his study at Harvard with an unspecified major. Amid all the difficulties in his life and the barriers he’s broken, he was accepted.

Photo: Xinhua

“I’ve never dared to apply for Harvard University, but my mom always encouraged me to give a try. Whenever I am hesitant, she is always there guiding me,” Ding said, reports CGTN.

Ding Ding left his mother in Jingzhou, Hubei Province last year to pursue his studies at Harvard University. He’s expressed that he often misses his “spiritual mentor” mom back home.


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