How to Complete the NJ CAT

Tips for Completing The New Jersey Comprehensive Assessment Tool (NJCAT)

By: Hinkle, Fingles & Prior, Attorneys at Law

The New Jersey Comprehensive Assessment Tool is the newest assessment the Division of Developmental Disabilities (“DDD”) is using to determine eligibility and funding levels. Completing this questionnaire is one of the most important steps you will take in preparing for your child to receive the appropriate level of supports and services from DDD.

Recently, DDD announced that anyone who completed an assessment prior to November 2014 will need to complete the NJCAT.

In preparation to complete the questionnaire, please imagine your child in a world that does not exist – a world where your child receives no natural supports. To help visualize this, imagine your child lives in his or her own apartment where you visit once a week. During your visit you ensure your child showers, brushes his or her teeth, and puts on clean clothes. You also make sure the laundry is done, meals are prepared and the apartment is clean. You leave and return one week later – What do you find?
• Has your child showered?
• Brushed his or her teeth?
• Is he or she wearing clean clothes?
• What does the apartment look like? Is it clean?
• What has your child eaten?
The answers to these questions, will help you asses your child’s self-care, independent living and self-direction skills. If your child cannot perform these tasks without your intervention, prompting, directions and assistance; then your child needs lots of assistance with these tasks. Be sure your responses on the questionnaire makes this clear.

Also, keep the following in mind when responding to the questions:
• Think of your child on their worst day
• Do not take into account the growth your child may have experienced over the last few years. The difference between your child and a typically developing child of the same age provides the best illustration of functioning ability.
• Compare your child to a typically developing child of the same age
o This form is often completed when your child is 21 years old. A typically developing 21 year-old may be living completely on their own, or living in a dorm at college.

Notes from The Arc:
If your family member receives a one to one- answer the questions as if he did not have a one to one. How is his behavior?

Think about the things that you do to assist your family member that you don't even think of - do you all go to bed at the same time? Does he/she know it is time to go to bed because you turn off the TV and head up the stairs? If you weren't there what would he/she do?

If your family member takes medication, think about all the steps involved: knowing when to order, actually ordering, picking it up, paying, knowing which pill is to be taken when, knowing the side effects, knowing what is to be taken with water, knowing what cannot be taken with food or a vitamin, knowing what is taken every day and what is taken at other times and what is taken as needed, knowing what each medication is for etc. As you answer each question, beak down the steps and tasks involved in it and then assess your son or daughter's ability to do those tasks ad steps without any help.

The idea is that this assessment is to figure out how much support the individual needs. Thus, you have to report their skills and behaviors as if you or any other caregiver did not exist. The individual is totally alone, what can he or she do?