We had the good fortune of connecting with Nicole Kaplan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nicole, can you share a quote or affirmation with us?
“Everybody is a Genius. But If You Judge a Fish by Its Ability to Climb a Tree, It Will Live Its Whole Life Believing that It is Stupid.” -Albert Einstein
I frequently wonder how my life would have been different knowing and understanding Einstein’s quote and it’s implications. Then I consciously turn my thoughts and remember the gifts my challenges bestowed upon me; resilience and grit. Einstein’s quote is so impactful I chose to incorporate it in personal and professional email signatures. I chose this quote because it speaks directly to me, giving insight into who I am and because it resonates with anyone I send an email to. I spent my entire life asked to climb trees, but I was a swimmer through and through and a talented one at that. Since truly processing Einstein’s words, I take pride in standing up for my fellow younger teammates. Helping them identify their strengths and using those strengths to compensate for their weaknesses while living in a world of tree climbers because these fish deserve to be seen as the brilliant swimmers they are. This metaphor, the inspiration for my life’s mission, serves as my motivation to ensure no student, who crosses my path, ever grows up feeling stupid, like I did.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Educational therapy is a highly specialized type of treatment addressing learning disabilities and learning challenges. Unlike tutoring, which helps students in specific academic areas, Educational Therapy combines various techniques providing comprehensive treatments. empowerED addresses underlying skills such as reading and writing problems, dyslexia, attention-deficit disorder, auditory processing disorder, low executive functioning skills, low motivation, social skills deficits, and many other areas affecting students’ academic performance. I empower my clients by remediating learning disabilities and guiding them in developing individualized compensation strategies for their weaknesses both usable in and out of the classroom. Besides taking an individualized, holistic, multisensory approach with our clients, I come to the situation with a unique perspective. In my role as an educational therapist, I wear three hats: the first, my professional hat. After earning my master’s degree, working in the field for 20+ years, and continuing my research, I can confidently call myself an expert in this field: the second, my mom hat. Having three children of my own, who all have utterly different learning styles, allows me to empathize with parents whose children are suffering emotionally and academically. The third is my student hat. Being transparent and authentic about my academic obstacles with both parents and students creates an immediate trust between my clients and myself. As an empath, I feel what they feel, empathizing with their experiences. The path I have walked has been a long, windy, and bumpy road. With hard work, determination, confidence, and conviction, I made it to the beautiful pasture. Besides being incredibly proud for having the ability to help so many families with a variety of needs, I am most proud of my journey, despite it being difficult and excited for what lies ahead. The beginning of my journey dates back to my UCLA days. I took a class and was given an assignment to develop a research question, conduct the research, and write a paper on a topic solving our own greatest academic challenge. I knew the question I wanted to research for my own personal knowledge. I was interested in discovering “the most effective ways for a learning disabled student to succeed at a rigerous, prestigious university?” This process leads me to a greater, much more in-depth understanding of available options, ones I wish I knew much earlier in my academic career. Magically (I do not believe in coincidences) when I was taking the class, I took on a babysitting job for a family living in Santa Monica. One of my responsibilities was to take their 3rd-grade daughter to her “educational therapist” twice a week. I had no idea what an educational therapist was. Each week I sat in the waiting room imagining what was going on behind the closed door. One day, entirely out of my character, I marched through that door looking for answers. “Bumping” into the two women owners, I politely began questioning them. As their responses rolled in, chills ran up my arms. The chills told me I had figured out what I wanted to do as my life’s work. To my surprise, I walked out of that impromptu “meeting” with a job offer contingent on graduating from UCLA and admittance to the recommended graduate program. Next thing I knew, I was graduate school-bound, and the rest is history. Nothing was ever easy for me. Unfortunately, struggles and challenges were not unfamiliar to me. That was my norm. When one struggles all the time, they do not realize there is another way of life. To shake up my norm, I adopted a new mantra. It is a phrase the professor who assigned me the eye-opening research paper repeatedly said in class, “Fake it till you make it.” Those six little words, combined with the wise sentiments of George Costanza, got me on my way. “ I [did] the opposite” of what I would typically do. Ultimately I adopted another character’s mantra. Carl Allen (played by Jim Carry) in “Yes Man” had to say yes to everything he would generally say no. So like that, I stopped letting my fear get in the way of something challenging and said “yes,” which was the opposite of what I would typically do, and I faked it until I made it. IT WORKED! Recounting the countless lessons I have learned along the way are would be impossible. I could probably write a book on it. I work with students, parents, teachers, administrators, psychologists, psychiatrists, speech and language therapists, college counselors, and the list goes on. Everyone I speak with has something to teach me. With that said, the first thing that comes to mind is authenticity, transparency, and vulnerability. Over the years, these three attributes have drastically evolved. I threw my insecure, closed off, academically timid attributes out the window and decided to fake it till I made it. This became my norm. I find the more I project authenticity, transparency, and vulnerability, the safer others feel, and that is precisely how the magic begins. It is important for the world to know the driving force behind me and creating empowerED. It is the same drive I had when I became an educational therapist twenty-five years ago. It really is simple…I do not want any child to grow up feeling stupid, incapable and insecure like I did. When I help turn a sad or frustrated client in to a happy, confident client, I have done my job and done it well.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Sadly, the current LA climate does not lend itself to visitors, however if I had a friend or family member coming to visit I would plan some safe social distancing activities. I love hiking in the canyons near my house, driving along PCH to Malibu with the windows down, sunroof open and music playing. We’d probably whip up some feasts and dine under the lights in the back yard. This meal would be continued (well throughout the whole process) enjoying some nice wines while engaging in meaningful conversations. I imagine our evenings would conclude with some games; rummy cube and spinner being two of my faves!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to dedicate my “shoutout” to my longtime boyfriend, Jason. He not only taught me how to open up my eyes to the beauty of the entire world (rather than the small bubble I “safely” lived in), but he also pried my eyes open, encouraging me to see who I truly am and trust in all my abilities. His love, support, and encouragement helped me revive my self-esteem, confidence, and courage buried deep inside my soul. His actions, not only his words, reminded me of my intelligence and innate entrepreneurial skills to open my private practice. Jason’s motivation never ceased, even when it came time for me to expand my business. Thank you, J, for genuinely believing in me, encouraging me, and reminding me of who I am.