Working the System: Tap Into Public Schools for Assessment & Support for 2e Learners

Tues, Mar 29, 7-8:30pm PST

Watch the recording here

Understanding and getting support for 2e learners can be complicated. The public education system is sometimes unwieldy and confusing. When parents suspect their child’s challenges (academic and/or social-emotional) may stem from an as yet undiscovered diagnosis, they often don't know how to start the process of requesting accommodations, assessments, and services. As a result, parents frequently do not leverage the resources of their public schools, which can lead to delays in understanding their child's needs or great expenses for private assessments and therapies.

REEL welcomes recent USC doctoral graduate Dr. Hanna Merk as well as Laura Kimpton from Special Education Advocacy Group. Hanna will share the findings and implications of her dissertation research, “Understanding the Critical Role of Parents in Improving the Identification and Support of Twice Exceptional Learners in the K-12 System.” Laura will walk through how to work with school districts to make assessment and accommodations requests, what that process looks like, and potential strength-based goals to advocate for as you move into the 504/IEP process. During the talk, we will dispel some common myths about assessments and help you understand the facts.


The Special Education Advocacy Group is the culmination of Laura Kimpton’s life-long passion for supporting children with exceptional needs and their families. Laura obtained a special education teaching credential so that she could support other children and families with a higher level of expertise. She began teaching as an educational specialist for an intensive-needs classroom, and within her first year won an Excellence in Teaching award. Laura earned her administrative credential and a Masters’ degree in Academic Leadership and Administration. She transitioned to the role of Special Education Program Supervisor, in which she used her educational and administrative skills to advocate for students with disabilities and the supports they need, in two large unified school districts. Ultimately, to even more effectively support children and families, Laura began working directly for families as a special education advocate. Laura then acquired Special Education Advocacy Group, where she now works tirelessly to ensure that her clients are receiving all the supports and services necessary to be successful in school. Having supported students with exceptional needs as a parent, teacher, administrator and advocate across the San Francisco Bay Area, Laura is able to effectively collaborate with teachers and administrators to achieve the best possible programs for her clients. She uses her extensive knowledge of services, supports, goal writing, accommodations, alternative placements, inclusion and assessment to foster success for children with a wide variety of needs.

Dr. Hanna Tikkanen Merk is a lifelong learner passionate about trying to make sense of complex human phenomena based on science, research, and experience. Dr. Merk’s recently completed dissertation focuses on understanding the critical role of parents in 2e learners’ diagnosis and access to supports. In addition to an EdD from USC, Dr. Merk holds an MBA from INSEAD in France, and a BA in Engineering and Economics from Brown University. With a background in corporate strategy and finance, most recently as the Managing Director of Merk Investments, Dr. Merk has also garnered experience in educational leadership and as a non-profit executive. Originally from Finland, Dr. Merk has called the Bay Area home for the past 20 years. Her four children have each attended different Bay Area high schools, thus giving her a unique vantage point of its complex educational ecosystem.

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