LIMA — The Allen County Board of Developmental Disabilities held its 50th anniversary gala Saturday night at the University of Northwestern Ohio Event Center.
The keynote speaker at the event was Chris Ulmer, a former special-education teacher who founded the blog, “Special Books by Special Kids.”
“We are trying to promote inclusion in society and helping have a platform to understand individuals with a diagnosis and we want people to see them who typically wouldn’t see them. In a way it’s for parents for teachers for therapists but even more it’s for individuals who don’t usually have a connection to those with a diagnosis, to learn about them so that when they meet them in their classrooms, at the grocery store, at the soccer game they feel confident in interacting with them and forming a bond,” Ulmer said.
The blog is something that grew out of his desire to have people understand his students with disabilities.
“It’s a blog that started in my classroom. I was a special-education teacher for three years and I wanted to highlight my students so the members of our community could understand them. It progressed after six months into having 50,000 followers and I started getting requests to interview people outside the classroom so over two years and a few months it now has 2 million followers across all social media channels and I interview people from all ages and all conditions and I always ask them what is life like for you?” he said. “It’s an open platform for these individuals to express life from their perspective and it helps people who typically want to understand them, understand them.”
The experience has been eye opening for Ulmer.
“I like to say that I no longer talk about my personal beliefs because they change every single day through the people I meet. I just gain so much perspective and understanding and I’m just constantly growing at a rate that I wasn’t previously,” he said.
Ulmer says he’s learned much about communication techniques over the past few years.
“What I’ve learned is the methods I’ve found to interact and communicate with these people and form positive bonds and enable them to express themselves, these aren’t methods that are particular to individuals with a diagnosis, it’s things that improve my relationship with my parents, my girlfriends, my friends. It’s just about kindness and acceptance,” he said.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.