This Former Teacher Gives a Voice to Disabled Children

Normalizing the diversity of the human condition

Aug 15, 2017
Special Collections: THE ABILITY IN DISABILITY

When Chris Ulmer first started teaching special needs children, he could not have imagined the journey this job would take him on. In the three years he spent with his students, all of whom live with varying degrees of disabilities, Ulmer discovered that these kids didn’t just have special needs, they were all special people in every other regard as well.

Fuelled by the dream to show the world what these kids have to offer, Ulmer came up with the Special Books by Special Kids project. The project was initially planned to be an eight-chapter book featuring eight of his students, but after his book was rejected by over 50 publishes, he decided to do it all alone.

Chris created a nonprofit, as well as his own Facebook page, and began to film interviews with his students and post them on social media. The initial 8 clips have grown into a massive library of over 500 videos and the Facebook page of Special Books by Special Kids is close to an incredible 1.5 million fans.

Ulmer travels the US to visit children coping with conditions like autism, Down syndrome, and brain injuries, and interviews them about life from their perspective. Not all of the children can express themselves with words, but Ulmer makes a special point of treating every single child with respect and goes into each interaction with the assumption that the person can understand him and is capable of communicating.

"No matter their level of communication, some are verbal, some are nonverbal, that doesn't matter," he told ABC News. "That's not indicative of intelligence. Everybody is understanding the world in their own way and through these videos ... you can see that in each one."

Ulmer uploads about three to four videos each week and funds his non-profit organisation through donations and by attending conferences as a speaker.

"I've learned that everyone has the ability to change someone's life. It can be something as simple as smiling, saying hello and complimenting someone. It doesn't take much to change the world."

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DAVID RUHM, EDITOR IN CHIEF
David has a passion for languages and words, and loves to see people happy. He writes about inspiring ideas, amazing technologies and all the wonders of the world.

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