Zou Hongyan is one persistent woman.
Due to a birth complication in 1988, Zou’s son, Ding Ding grew up with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that causes loss or impairment of motor function. Doctors advised her to give Ding up, saying it would not be worthwhile to raise him either as an invalid or someone with low intelligence.
But Zou stuck to her guns and kept Ding, raising him and dealing with his condition with persistence and devotion. And it has paid off.
— SCMP News (@SCMPNews) May 16, 2017
But life was tough for the mother and son in the beginning. As a single mother (Zou divorced Ding’s father), Zou had to work several jobs while making sure Ding overcame as many of his disabilities as possible.
In one instance, Zou made sure Ding learned how to use chopsticks despite having troubles coordinating his hands and even when relatives said they’d understand it if he couldn’t. But Zou insisted Ding had to learn so he would not have to explain why he was not using chopsticks every single time.
“I didn’t want him to feel ashamed about his physical problems,” Zou, whom Ding described as his “spiritual mentor” 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.”
Zou went to great lengths to support their family and afford treatment for Ding. She took on a full-time role at a college in Wuhan, as well as part-time jobs as a protocol trainer and insurance agent. In addition to this, there were regular rehabilitation sessions for Ding, come rain or shine.
While playing intelligence-boosting games with him, the devoted mother would even massage her son’s stiff muscles, which is necessary for those with cerebral palsy.
In China, disabled students face discriminatory obstacles in their access to education, despite modest progress in recent years, according to rights watchdog Human Rights Watch. Such students are given little – if any at all – systematic support from their schools and teachers.
Yet, against these odds, Ding managed to graduate with a bachelor’s degree from Peking University’s Environmental Science and Engineering School in 2011 and a master’s degree from the university’s International Law School.
Last year, Ding furthered his studies at the prestigious Ivy League school after working for two years.
Naturally, Ding said he often misses his mother back home in Hubei province, China.