Florida teacher is teaching acceptance of all people, one video at a time

Chris Ulmer is the man behind Special Books by Special Kids on Facebook.

ByEnjoli Francis and Susan Schwartz
April 27, 2017, 6:58 PM

— -- With a camera, tripod and a light, Chris Ulmer travels the U.S. looking for children who rarely get their moment to shine.

Ulmer is a special education teacher from Jacksonville, Florida, who came up with an idea: To crisscross the country ensuring that lonely children were lonely no longer.

"I saw so much of myself in the kids," he told ABC News. "I was always a little bit of a loner. I never really fit in, at least internally, and when I went in to that classroom, I saw myself."

At first, he wanted to create a series of books that included the children's faces and the stories behind them.

He wanted to call it "Special Books by Special Kids." The idea, however, was rejected by 50 publishers.

So Ulmer decided to do it on his own. He created a nonprofit as well as his own Facebook page. It currently has more than 1 million followers.

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He has created more than 500 videos, learning valuable life lessons from every person he meets.

Ulmer interviews children coping with conditions like autism, Down syndrome and brain injuries, about life from their perspective and the goals they keep. Some cannot speak, but that makes no difference. Each interview is another step in teaching others about the beauty in people's differences.

"No matter their level of communication, some are verbal, some are nonverbal, that doesn't matter," he said. "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 said he's hopeful that as many people as possible will watch the videos. But he knows that just making them is enough to give someone a voice.

"Many of these humans go through life without ever interacting outside their family," he said. "I've learned that everyone has the ability to change someone's life. And it doesn't have to be a grandiose action. 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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