Have You Seen This Guy?
Christopher Ulmer is a special education teacher. In his third year of working with the same class of students, he wanted to highlight what he saw in his students – their brilliance, humor, and beauty. His first idea was a book in which his students would explain life from their perspectives, but when that didn’t work out, he started videotaping and posting interviews with his students instead.
Seven months later, a video showing how he compliments his students went viral. Since then, Chris has had the opportunity to travel and meet hundreds of people with disabilities, and has shared their stories with the world. His goal is to “normalize the diversity of the human condition.” He says, “What started in a special education classroom with a cracked iPhone has evolved into an international movement of acceptance, love and diversity.” Chris’s work has been incredibly wide-reaching, with videos that receive thousands of views, and an upcoming full length documentary on the way.
Showing Us How
So what has been the key to this success? Possibly the most interesting part of the Special Books by Special Kids project is the example Chris gives of how to interact with people. He has a gift for connecting with others, and through these videos, he’s teaching us how.
“The essence of motivation is finding out what the natural interest of the child is,
what they like to do.” – Stanley Greenspan
Chris Ulmer carries out this principle of Stanley Greenspan. He greets each person with warmth and friendliness, and then watches and listens to see how he might connect with them on their terms. From there conversation often expands and he is able to give them an opportunity to be themselves – he follows their natural interest.
Chris recognizes that everyone communicates on a different frequency. Those who are flexible to meet the level and mindset of others will be able to make a connection.
A relationship is the goal – because building relationships unlocks the full potential of people.
“Once you can look someone eye to eye, on their level,
they will want to learn and grow with you.” – Christopher Ulmer
What Chris Ulmer is doing is a great example of what developmental-based therapies like DIR/Floortime and RDI aim to do – observing and listening to meet a person where they are at, adjusting what we do to fit their “frequency,” and building a relationship where they are comfortable to stretch themselves.
Developmental, Individual Differences, Relationship-Based
The key is that relationship isn’t about getting people to do things; it’s about getting them to connect with you and grow through interaction. When you start from that basis, as Chris Ulmer does, the results can be truly amazing. Take a look: