ETHS senior Lauren Miller, left, and Park School teacher Iden Nowlin. Photo by Bernita Rob

For my community service in Senior Studies I went to Park School and shadowed Iden Nowlin, a teacher who works with three-  and four-year-olds, and is also from Evanston. Being there has been such a treat and I wanted some more insight from Ms. Nowlin about her ideas, thoughts and feeling about exceptionalities.

Ms. Nowlin’s connections with disabilities are professional and personal. She said, “I’m a teacher and work with kids with disabilities. I also have a daughter with a hearing loss. So I’m a teacher and a mom.”  

A lot of people can relate to this statement. I can relate because I’m a daughter too with an exceptionality.

Ms. Nowlin said, “I think that kids have different abilities, not disabilities. So I think that my kids can do anything that they set their minds to. They just need some help, need us to show them the way, and to modify for them. I think that it’s important to not think of them as being so different. I mean they are different but everyone is different. They all have a little special in them.”

Ms. Nowlin said her mother gave her a quote to live by: “‘Worry in order.’ So instead of worrying about what could possibly happen down the line think what is happening now. So instead of me being a ‘what if mommy,’ my kids ask me if we could do this. I’ll worry about getting the first thing done and not worry what could happen.”

This is something that everyone learns at some point in their lives.

Ms. Nowlin also said, “The word ‘disability’ kind of makes me feel sad, because it makes me think that if other people use that word than it’s better than other words that I’ve heard. It makes it sound like something is wrong with people with disabilities, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with people with disabilities. That’s why I like to say ‘different abilities’ and that they’re special.

I asked her, “If there was another word out there instead of disabilities what do you think about that and what word would that be?”

 “Exceptional. … I took a class in college and it was teaching the exceptional learner and it meant any child that had a special need and whether it was someone in the lower functioning or higher functioning,” Ms. Nowlin said.

This interview left me with the idea that, no matter what, you can do it with just a little help even when you have an exceptionality. I thought that was a beautiful way to be positive about who a person with an exceptionality is. I feel like I can really relate and it makes me feel good about myself. I think that this message is important. I also left with the idea that what people can say about people with exceptionalities can be hurtful or can be positive. I think that people chose to be a certain way and that way may not be the best way to approach the idea or situation.