After the toxic news cycle this past week, I really needed to find something to boost my faith in humanity. Boy, did I ever find the antidote.
This is Chris Ulmer, a ridiculously-appealing-looking young man who interviews children with a wide range of disabilities. Like many graduates Ulmer experienced something of an existential crisis after completing his bachelor’s degree in communications. After casting about for an idea of what his dream job would be, he decided that coaching soccer was for him. Chris began his coaching career at a school in rural Kentucky. His first employer offered him the opportunity to get a masters in education. Though teaching didn’t really appeal to him, Ulmer wasn’t about to turn down a free degree, so back to school he went. In order to complete his masters, he knew he would need to put in some classroom time, something Ulmer expected to bore him. He found a student teacher position in a special needs class, and immediately felt an unexpected connection to his students. He found himself completely comfortable leaving behind the rules of typical social interaction and communicating with these children in ways that made them comfortable instead. Upon receiving his masters in special education, Ulmer quit coaching and found himself a job teaching special needs children.
Chris began making recordings because he wanted to share his students’ accomplishments with their parents. What began as a small, weekly YouTube post directed at the students’ families evolved into a very popular website and vlog. Through his not-for-profit, Special Books by Special Kids (SBSK), Ulmer travels around the world, interviewing special needs kids (and sometimes adults) on camera. He talks to them about whatever interests them, but the underlying message is always the same, “What do you want people to know about you?” I’m sure his efforts to give these people a voice and demystify their conditions has gone a long way toward making them feel heard. With more than 2 million Facebook followers and nearly a million YouTube subscribers, Chris Ulmer and his staff are doing a beautiful job sharing these people’s stories. I am so grateful to know there are still people like Chris in the world.