Chinese girl born without hands wins penmanship award

PHOTO: Chinese girl born without hands wins penmanship award

Seven-year-old Annie Clark from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was born without hands. But that didn't stop her from winning a national penmanship award for her beautiful handwriting.

Dressed in a cheerful canary yellow, Annie was presented with a trophy nearly half her size and a US$1,000 (S$1,246) cheque for winning the Nicolas Maxim award, the Daily Mail UK reported.

The award, presented by educational publisher Zaner-Bloser to recognise special needs students, was named after a fifth-grader born without hands who entered the competition last year.

After collecting the prize, she showed off her penmanship skills, holding a pencil firmly wedged between her forearms.

Mary Ellen Clark, her mother, told reporters that her daughter was shocked and overwhelmed to have won, but was poised throughout the event.

Her teachers and family described her as a shy girl who is diligent and tenacious.

Her teacher told Good Morning America that Annie takes pride in her writing and makes sure it's clear and concise. And despite her disability, she never falls behind in class and is a quick learner.

Her father told the media that she is a determined girl who can feed and dress herself. "She can ride a bike. She swims. She is just determined and there's nothing she can't do," he said. She can even paint her toenails, he said.

Asked whether she might become a writer when she becomes older, she replied in the affirmative, saying maybe it'll be about animals.

Annie, who is Chinese by race, is the adopted child of Tom and Mary. They have nine children in total, three of whom are biological and six are adopted from China.

Four of the adopted kids have disabilities of their hands or arms, while two girls, including one biological, have Down syndrome.

Her mother said she hopes the award will encourage her child to believe that she can 'do anything'.

Born without hands or arms

One out of every 2,000 babies is born without a limb or body-part at birth.

The condition, known as congenital amputation, has no single cause.

One common cause is amniotic band syndrome, where the inner fetal membrane ruptures and gets entangled around the fetus.

The fibrous bands of the membrane can get wrapped around the limbs of the fetus, constricting the blood supply and leading to an accidental amputation in the womb.

Exposure to environmental chemicals has also been known to cause such defects.

Famously in the 1960s, tranquilizers containing the drug thalidomide were given to pregnant women, which resulted in a drastic hike in the number of babies born with limb deformities.

While some children are born with just part of a finger missing, others are less fortunate.

Although medical advances offer little reprieve other than prosthetic limbs and therapy, children have been found to be extraordinarily good at learning to compensate for missing limb by finding other means to accomplish tasks.