Kelly Vincent – Vision Australia Interview on Special Books by Special Kids

On Wednesday 7 December, Dignity Party MLC Kelly Vincent was interviewed on radio station Vision Australia where she discussed Chris Ulmer, the man behind Special Books by Special Kids. Here is the transcript and audio from the interview.

Pam Green: It’s time to welcome to 5RPH now, Dignity for Disability MLC Kelly Vincent. Hi Kelly.

Kelly Vincent: Hi Pam.

Pam Green: Well you were at the Inclusive Directions conference last month introducing an interesting guy from the US, he is a teacher who’s working with students with autism, what’s he doing differently?

Kelly Vincent: Well, Chris Ulmer or as he is known to his students as Mr Chris works with a variety of children with all kinds of disabilities and he is the founder of the organisation called Special Books by Special Kids or SBSK. And he is making videos with his students, giving them a voice to show people and themselves really, who they really are, and to show their talents and their skills. It sounds so simple but he really puts a lot of fun into the classroom. He’s helping students to learn about themselves, helping to break down the stigma of disability, and thereby helping his students do better at school as well.

Pam Green: And does he have some books, are these books available locally?

Kelly Vincent: Well here’s the funny thing Pam, there aren’t actually any books. Originally the idea of Special Books by Special Kids was going to be books but after he was rejected by no less than 50 publishers, Chris decided to go ahead and keep making videos of his students, which he shares on Facebook in particular but also all kinds of social media websites to share those stories of his students because from his perspective as a classroom teacher he wanted the world to see his students as he does.

Pam Green: Right and what’s the key to his idea, isn’t it of giving compliments to his students every day? What’s that about?

Kelly Vincent: Well I believe it’s one day a week, he starts the day by giving his students compliments by saying things like hey I recognise how hard you’re working, how kind you are to the other students, how hard you’re working to improve in your school work. And he did this because he often recognises the painful isolation which people who are different, particularly those who are neurodiverse experience, such as students with autism. And he began Special Books by Special Kids really as a sort of advocacy campaign for young people with disabilities and now he is spreading the word. And this is certainly something we could learn a lot from because as we are learning in the committee that I am chairing in the educational experiences of students with disabilities – yes there are issues with resourcing but so much of it comes down to the attitudes and the belief in those students. So I think we can really learn a lot from Mr Chris about recognising students for who they are and assuming they have capacity and potential to learn rather than incapacity. So he’s doing some great work.

Pam Great: Always so informative listening to you Kelly. Thanks so much for your time today.

Kelly Vincent: Thanks Pam.