How Did This Disabled Man Achieve His Harvard Dream?

Ding Ding is now a graduate student at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Image:  pixabay  /  CC0 1.0)
Ding Ding is now a graduate student at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Some 29 years ago, 25-year-old Zou Hongyan divorced because she refused to give up on her newborn son who had cerebral palsy. That baby, Ding Ding, is now a graduate student at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Due to a medical procedure during birth, Ding Ding suffered fetal distress. The doctor advised on the possibility of mental dysfunction of the unborn child and suggested Zou have an abortion. Zou refused and bore a child with cerebral palsy.

Zou was alone in taking care of Ding Ding after her divorce. Working at Wuhan Kindergarten Teacher’s School, she made just over a hundred dollars a month as a teacher, which had to cover her daily necessities as well as Ding Ding’s medical bills. At the time, she brought her son to various doctors regardless of the time of day or weather.

Realizing that cerebellar degeneration deterred her son’s growth and health, she worked hard to realize every effort to stabilize his condition. She would return home during work breaks to play and to stimulate Ding Ding’s brain through games and activities.

In 2016, Ding Ding was admitted to Harvard Law School. (Image: Abi Skipp via flickr CC BY 2.0 )

In 2016, Ding Ding was admitted to Harvard Law School. (Image: Abi Skipp via flickr CC BY 2.0 )

She even taught herself to become Ding Ding’s personal physical therapist. She also read with him everyday. By age 2, Ding Ding could recognize more than 100 Chinese characters.

Under her mother’s loving guidance, Ding Ding graduated with a degree in environmental science and engineering from Beijing University in 2011, and continued onto the School of Transnational Law at the same university. In 2016, he was admitted to Harvard Law School. Ding Ding said:

For Zou Hongyan, she sees herself as her son’s closest friend and “a mother whose mission in life is to help her child to grow and progress.”

Translated by Cecilia.

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