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Changing the Way We See Special Needs Kids

If you’re the parent of a special needs child, anxiety over the way others react to your son or daughter is probably a mainstay. Children don’t always understand the magnitude of their ridicule and adults don’t want to offend by saying the wrong thing, so instead they look away and don’t get to know you or your child. It’s a tangled social web.

One special needs teacher in Florida is trying to change all of that. After three years with the same group of kids, 26-year-old Christopher Ulmer wants others to know his students the way he has come to know them.

“I often recall the thought I had my first day working with these children, ‘What the heck is going on?'” he writes on his website, Special Books by Special Kids. “Three years later, I understand each sentence, blink and movement. I have learned their language. Not many individuals who meet these children will have the same benefit of time to establish such a bond.”

So Ulmer is trying to bridge that gap. With the parents’ permission, Ulmer has recorded and published interviews and put together a book that features stories collaboratively told by each child, his or her parents, or by Ulmer himself as their teacher. He is currently looking for a publisher.

“I have 50 rejection letters on my fridge to keep me motivated,” he told ABC News.

The purpose of his book is to educate the general public about life as his students and, as a complementary piece to the book, he is publishing videos of daily life in his classroom and of interviews with the kids.

One video in particular caught the attention of ABC News, which reached out to Ulmer. The video shows the special education teacher giving positive affirmation to each of his students to start the day.

“I love having you in my class. I think you’re very funny. You’re a great soccer player. Everyone in here loves you,” Ulmer says to the kids as they each take their turn standing in front of the class, facing Ulmer.

Ulmer says he didn’t think twice about this particular video, which took him approximately 10 minutes to edit, but it resonated with the public. Perhaps it’s because the simple act of pouring appreciation into another human being transcends his book, but it is has drawn attention to what he is trying to accomplish.

The project contains wonderful resources put together by Ulmer, his students, and their parents. There are a handful of cartoon videos that explain life from the perspective of the children and their parents, and interviews with the kids to show their personalities and to draw information about their diagnoses.

It’s a collection of videos that show the lovable characters that are his students, and the positives of living with each condition, which exactly what Ulmer is trying to convey.

So take a look at his Facebook page, his interviews, and cartoons, and then share it with your friends!


Freelance Writer at
Chrissie is a wife, mother of three children and two cats, a freelance writer, public relations professional, and Rodan+Fields Consultant. You can learn more about her business at or on Facebook (ChrissieWywrot) or Twitter (@Chrissie5213).
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