Meet Chris Ulmer, Our Keynote Speaker
Our 50th Anniversary Gala is October 28, and we are honored and excited to have Chris Ulmer as our keynote speaker! Chris is a wonderful person and an outstanding advocate for individuals with developmental disabilities. (He uses the term neurodiverse in his work.) Recently, we interviewed Chris to learn more about his mission and why he started Special Books by Special Kids. Read it all below!
And if you’re interested in attending our gala, we’d love to have you! You can purchase tickets here.
Why did you start Special Books by Special Kids (SBSL)?
Upon my hire at a special education school in Florida, I instantly fell in love with the intelligence and humor displayed by the students in my classroom. After two years, this appreciation had reached an all-time high. It was then that the idea for Special Books by Special Kids was born; I intended to work with my students to write short stories that explained life from their perspective. My class and I believed these stories would enable the community to better understand neurodiverse individuals. I’ll summate the evolution of SBSK here as well. It may tackle some of your other questions as well. Life does not always go as planned and the book proposal for SBSK was denied by over fifty publishers. Instead of becoming discouraged, my students and I decided to start a video blog on Facebook in April of 2015. This decision would eventually change the lives of millions of people across the globe.
After six months of sharing videos featuring the students in my classroom, SBSK had a loyal community of 150,000 followers. I began receiving messages from other neurodiverse people around the world in which they confessed their desire to be interviewed. I decided to begin traveling to interview humans of all ages and diagnoses for SBSK in December 2015. A full year into SBSK, the blog was 400,000 followers strong and being run during my free time outside of the classroom. I realized the enormous potential this platform had to impact society and made the difficult decision to leave my teaching position. It is now 2017 and I dedicate all my time to traveling around the world to further the mission of SBSK. Today, the Special Books by Special Kids community has surpassed over a million loyal members and is the world’s leading neurodiversity movement.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
I was an ice cream truck driver for a bit in college.
What’s been your best memory or greatest accomplishment on this journey?
The moments where you realize that you’ve been able to help dramatically change someone’s life for the better. Whether that is connecting someone who has often felt isolated or overlooked with people around the world or helping to support an individual’s business or talents. The best part is always the people and knowing that together we are able to make a difference in their lives and the lives of many others.
What do you see for the future of Special Books by Special Kids? What’s your next goal?
I see us going international even more regularly. We serve millions of people in over 115 countries around the world. A big goal for us is making sure that everyone sees themselves reflected in the dialogue we are supporting around acceptance and inclusion. Bringing in more cultures and perspectives only enriches and deepens that conversation.