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Special education teacher Chris Ulmer is investing ten minutes a day to make a difference for each and every one of the eight students in his class at Mainspring Academy in Jacksonville, Fla. These students have special needs, including Asperger syndrome, autism, rare birth defects and traumatic brain injury.
One by one, Chris addresses the youngsters with kindness, respect, praise and a high five and a warm smile, ensuring that each student hears words of encouragement such as, "Thank you for being a great student. I love having you in my class. I think you're smart, good at soccer, you're very funny and everybody loves you."
Creating self-worth via kindness
By sharing considerate and personalized compliments such as these, the power of kindness is changing these young lives for the better. Known as Mr. Chris by his students, Ulmer commented in a caption on his video posted to Facebook, "I have seen their confidence and self-worth skyrocket." Even better, says Ulmer, "It really sets the stage to focus on the good. Once I started focusing on their positive attributes, they did the same with one another. They focused on what they could do; they focused on their talents. And then we saw more talents arise."
Chris Ulmer, 26, embodies the mission of his school: To help students with special needs reach their fullest potential in all areas of life. Chris has a gift for deconstructing students' misconceptions about school while supplying each child with an optimistic lens through which they can view life, explains Mainspring Academy. Ulmer says of the class he has been with for over two years, "I teach students with a variety of diagnoses, from autism to brain disorders. The students I teach are sweet, caring, loving, and intelligent."
Spreading awareness about special needs
When the video of Chris Ulmer complimenting his students swept the internet in November 2015, it triggered a heartfelt response resulting in national headlines and international attention that continues to gain traction.
Chris Ulmer uses social media to spread awareness by sharing videos that provide a candid look inside his special education classroom. These videos, now accumulating millions of views, offer a virtual library of insights and suggestions for everyone on how to break down social stigmas and develop a positive relationship with somebody who is neurologically different.
As Mr. Chris puts it, "If you search for differences, you will see a few. But when you focus on similarities, there are much more."
This article was written by Laurie Jo Miller Farr via Examiner.com for CBS Local Media
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