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Tuesday May 23, 2017

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I hope SBSK inspires others to take a moment instead of judging someone.

Chris is an exceptional education teacher in Florida. His unique and affirming teaching style as well as his extraordinary class of students has captured the hearts of many and become a viral sensation. The first video to gain widespread attention showcased his “compliment time” with the students at the start of each school day, and it was featured first at “The Mighty” and then in an article on ABC News. From there the message spread all over the mainstream media, reaching far beyond the typical “Awareness” circles, and Chris even made an appearance on Rachel Ray’s television show. The messages from Mr. Chris and his students continue to spread all over the internet, and the page has even been mentioned on unexpected sites like MTV, prompting Ashton Kutcher to say, “Mr. Chris, you’re a great teacher.”

Chris starts his interviews asking “What’s something special about you?” or “What do you want the world to know about you?” “I treat everybody with respect, I am extremely positive, and I go into each interaction with the assumption that the person can understand me and they’re capable of communicating,” he explains.

Some children use assistive technology to speak and others communicate using body language. “When I make a new friend, I give them a high five,” Chris says.

No matter what, you’re always able to do anything. Never give up,” says Owen, who has the bone condition arthrogryposis. Owen cannot use his arms or legs so he moves around by rolling on the ground. For children like Owen, a Facebook page has given them a chance to share what they want the world to know about their diagnosis.

The page, Special Books by Special Kids (SBSK), is the brainchild of Chris Ulmer, who worked for three years as a special education teacher in Florida (known as special educational needs teacher in the UK).

“The students in my class were amazing. They were funny, engaging and charismatic,” Chris says.

“But the rest of our neighbourhood didn’t really understand them. Nobody valued them. I wanted to show off these individuals and help them show the world what they had to offer.”

After trying to tell the stories in a book (“It was rejected by over 50 publishers”, he laughs), Chris began to film interviews with his students and post them on social media.

Now he has more than one million followers and travels the world interviewing people of all ages inviting them to tell the world what is special about them. He refers to his subjects as “neuro diverse”.

“It means everyone’s brain is diverse and when you respect that idea, you begin to see that everyone is the same,” he explains.

“I consider it my role to normalise the diversity of the human condition.”

One Facebook user commented: “You have a heart of gold.

Chris insists that children with special education needs are persecuted for being different.

“One of the children I interviewed got punched in the eye by a bully because he communicates in a different way.

“Part of our platform is to find a solution and help parents educate their children that some people may be different but they still have so much to offer and we have to respect them and include them in our society.”

Chris posts three or four interviews each week and funds his non-profit organisation through donations and by attending conferences as a speaker. “I hope SBSK inspires others to take a moment instead of judging someone. Get to know them, see why they act the way they do. Find out why they think the way they do.”

Comments  

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