For Paraprofessionals,  Thriving in Your School

What is a Snapshot IEP?

A Snapshot IEP, or IEP-At-A-Glance, is a brief summary of a child’s IEP plan, which can be upwards of 20-30 pages. To save staff time, case managers write up a simplified version called the Snapshot to share with everyone.  This year for the first time at our building, we have made two changes to the snapshot format:

  • Snapshots are all going to use the same format. This way staff doesn’t have to figure out everyone’s different styles.  This should be great for those staff who work with multiple case managers. 
  • The case manager who just spent a year working with the student will be writing the snapshot–each case manager updated them at the end of the school year so they will be as current as they can be

Anyway, the Snapshot IEP document is separated into 5 sections: basic identifying information/links, key facts to know, academic levels, goals and finally a list of accommodations/supports that they should be receiving when they are in any classroom. Our teachers use a form very similar to this SNAPSHOT TEMPLATE. Here’s some detailed information for each section. 

Identifying Information and Links

This section tells quite a lot in a small space. Starting from the top we have: 

  • Who the case manager is-who you would contact if there were questions or concerns
  • When they have planning time–ie: this is a good time to talk to them
  • How to contact them by phone

As much as I don’t like labeling, this part identifies the label the student carries. The way they can access supports and services. Without going into too much detail, these are the main areas where students can be eligible:

  • Learning Disabilities-A student with a learning disability has difficulties learning to read, write or do math. They could struggle with all three things or have just one area of concern. These difficulties with learning often affect learning in other subjects. 
  • Emotional Behavior Disabilities-A student with an emotional behavior disability has chronic, frequent or severe difficulties regulating emotions and behavior that aren’t a result of circumstances. This includes students who have medically diagnosed anxiety and can also include students who have ADHD. 
  • Other Health Impairment-A student with OHI has a medical condition that impacts their strength, vitality or alertness. This basically addresses stamina and focus/attention, which is why anxiety and ADHD have fallen under this label in the past. But it also encompasses ANY other known health condition that impacts stamina and focus.
  • Autism-This area encompasses students who have actual medical diagnoses and those who do not. Students who have differences and delays in social interactions and communication skills. They also may show sensory issues or rigid ways of thinking. The is a wide range of academic skills, social issues and behavior impact in this category.
  • Intellectual Disability-This area encompasses students who have lower skills overall. Their actual IQ is 70 or lower (85-115 being average) and their language, academics, and functional skills mirror this level. There is a significant impact and need for modified work and grading for many of these students.
  • There are several other categories that students can be eligible, but we don’t see them very often. They include OI-Orthopedic Impairment, VI-Visual Impairment, HI-Hearing Impairment. 

These are services that students need in order to access larger goals and skills. Services could be direct or they could be done by consulting with case managers or teams. 

  • OT-Occupational Therapy-being able to use your hands and do fine and visual motor tasks like writing or functional skills like opening a bottle or zipping your coat. OTs also work on sensory regulation issues for students
  • PT-Physical Therapy-being able to use your whole body to get through your environment. Core strength, how a child runs or walks, throws a ball. In school, this area focuses on helping students develop skills for getting around the building safely and working on PE skills. 
  • Services that a case manager provides directly to a student-minutes for reading, writing, math, behavior, functional. These are typically tied directly to a goal
  • If a student has a Behavior Intervention Plan or some other type of strategy plan, there will be a link to it here. It is important that you become familiar with this plan for a student so that you can act accordingly when you work with the child because just like an IEP is a legal document, this part of the IEP is also enforced that way. We must follow BIPs to avoid unnecessary behavior issues with students. 
  • Similarly, students may also have health plans. Health plans can encompass any type of condition. A student may have nut allergies, epilepsy, or diabetes. Each of those issues have things to know about them for this specific child. Become familiar with this aspect of the student just as you would with a BIP. This is for a child’s physical health. 
  • Additionally, you may find that students who take medication regularly at school have something written here

Key Facts to Know

This is a pretty straightforward section. It includes things you should know about the student or the family. It focuses on those things that are of most importance to you when you work with the student. If a family needs a lot of communication, it will be here. If there are behavior or social things that really matter to your work with a student, it will be here. Pay attention to this section. 

Current Academic Grade Equivalent

Academic Levels matter so that you understand how far from typical a student is performing. Here are some tidbits that may help you figure out what the data is telling you.They are not 100% true all the time because I’ve had kids fall outside of these zones(they are typically kids with behavior needs), but for the most part, these ring true: 

1 year behind-they feel the gap closing and act the part. They will do most of the classroom work without too much accommodation. They would be more likely to advocate for themselves as well. They may in fact avoid help from case managers

2 or more years behind-These kids are all over the map in terms of how they behave. Some work really hard and want the gap to close and others feel like they will never catch up. Ever. So why bother? So look at what else the snapshot says about the student. Are they motivated? How are there organization skills?  These are all telling as to how much additional support they are likely to need. 


This section tells the actual goals the student is working on for this year’s IEP. Some students have only 1 goal. Some have 4 or 5 goals. It just depends on what the team determined as the student’s current needs. Goals are determined based on students baseline with a skill and what we reasonably think they can achieve in a year’s time. 

A NOTE ABOUT GOALS: Some students have bigger needs that have to be worked through in baby steps-especially behavior goals. Just like we can’t expect a student to jump three 3 years in reading in 1 years time, we can’t expect students who never behave in a certain way to just behave like everyone else just because we set a goal. 

You may be working in a class that is impacted by a goal area. Or maybe not. Likely though if a student has a reading or a writing goal, these will impact performance across many classes.


This section outlines exactly what teachers and paras should be doing so that students can access learning tasks in the classroom on a level playing field with their peers. They cover a wide variety of areas from how a student accesses their locker or how they are seated in a class to grading procedures, modified work or tests, to behavior supports. You may see things like:

Classroom Accommodations–preferential seating, individual vs partner vs small group work, or additional adult in the room 

Learning Accommodations–providing complete notes for a student, providing skeleton outline of notes for a student, packets for math work vs writing out all problems, graphic organizers for all writing tasks, extra time to complete work, modified grading, writing tasks modified for length, or frequent comprehension checks

Testing Accommodations–extra time, small group/separate space, or breaks allowed

Behavior Supports–frequent check-ins, sensory supports, access to breaks, access to work in a separate space, or visual supports

Other Supports–transition visit with a case manager before school starts, word lock for both PE and regular lockers, or locker clean outs once per week

A classroom teacher or para should be attending to classroom, behavior, testing and learning accommodations a student needs. The student’s case manager will handle other supports that may happen across the child’s day. It’s important to understand that unless it is indicated to apply to just one class, supports/accommodations are meant to go across all classes.

One of the toughest things to do in a school is to ensure you are providing IEP support to all students in a classroom who need it, but when it works well, students really benefit from their learning. Keep at it and ask questions when things don’t make sense.

Hopefully, this little run down helps you see what to look for when you read the snapshot. Let me know what questions or comments you have.

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