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Chinese Mother’s Love Gets Disabled Son All the Way to Harvard

Photo: SCMP / Handout


Chinese Mother’s Love Gets Disabled Son All the Way to Harvard

When Zuo Hongyan gave birth to her son Ding Ding in 1988 in Hubei, central China, complications left him facing a lifelong battle with cerebral palsy.

Concerned that the boy would grow up physically or mentally handicapped, and with apparently little chance of improving, doctors actually suggested that Zuo should give him up.

Heartbreakingly, her husband agreed with them, telling Zuo the boy would be a burden on the family for the rest of their lives.

Committed to Ding Ding, Zuo ignored them all, and she and her husband soon got divorced.

She took on several jobs, including a full-time position at a college in Wuhan and part-time roles as a protocol trainer and insurance salesperson.

The money earned helped pay for treatment for Ding Ding.

When Zuo wasn’t working, she would help rehabilitate Ding Ding herself.

This included massaging his stiff muscles – which were a symptom of his cerebral palsy – and playing intelligence-boosting games with him.


For Zuo, the priority was for Ding Ding to overcome his disabilities as much as he could, which would allow him to live as normal a life as possible.

“I didn’t want him to feel ashamed about his 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.”

Some relatives, for example. considered it understandable if Ding Ding’s coordination problems meant he couldn’t use chopsticks.

His mother thought differently.

Not learning, she argued, would mean always having to explain why he couldn’t do something so that comes naturally to the Chinese every time he dined with someone new.

After decades of tirelessly helping her son, Zuo was overjoyed when, in 2011, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Peking University’s Environmental Science and Engineering School.

He later enrolled for a master’s degree at the university’s International Law School, before spending two years working in China.

Already not bad for a man whose doctors and father gave up on him when he was born.

However, Zuo’s proudest moment came last year when Ding Ding began further studies at Harvard.

Now 29, Ding Ding attributes all of his progress to his mother, considering her persistence to be behind both his academic success and his overcoming of many of the physical handicaps brought on by his condition.

Even for Americans, getting into Harvard isn’t easy.

For a disabled boy to come out of central China and make it there is almost unreal.

And it’s all because of his mother’s love and devotion.

via SCMP | Images SCMP / Handout

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