What is a Gross Motor Function Classification System (GMFCS)?
Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that permanently affects body movement and muscle coordination. It is caused by damage to the brain that occurs before, during, or shortly after birth. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and may include difficulty with walking, speaking, eating, drinking, and other activities of daily life.
Although there’s no cure for cerebral palsy, treatments are available to improve the quality of life. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech/language therapy, and medications may all help manage the condition. Additionally, assistive devices such as wheelchairs, walkers, and braces can be helpful for those with more severe symptoms.
Doctors may use the Gross Motor Function Classification System (GMFCS) to measure the severity of cerebral palsy in children. This is a 5-level system that assesses the child's ability to perform gross motor skills, such as walking, sitting, and standing. Each level corresponds to a range of motor functions, with Level 1 representing mild symptoms and Level 5 being the most severe.
Check out this video to learn more about the GMFCS:
How does this GMFCS Scale work?
Our free GMFCS Scale template can help you better understand each level of the scale and how it relates to a child's ability to perform activities. The GMFCS Scale template is easy to fill out and allows you to assess a child’s abilities efficiently. Here's how to get started:
Step One: Download the free worksheet
Get a copy of the GMFCS Scale using the link on this page or from the Carepatron app. You can also access it from our resources library.
Step Two: Assess the Individual
Once you have the template, take some time to evaluate your patient’s abilities. Start by observing them in different contexts and activities. As you watch, note how they move and manage their environment.
Step Three: Fill Out the GMFCS Scale
Write down your patient's relevant information, such as name, age, date of birth, and contact information. Then, jot down any findings and evaluations you may have. Additionally, note down their GMFCS level.
Step Four: Discuss the results
Explain the results to your patient's family or care team. Talk about how their abilities have changed over time, how they manage their environment, and any potential issues that may arise.
The GMFCS has five levels, each designed to provide an increasing level of detail about a patient's motor skills. The lowest level is one, and the highest is five. Here are the levels:
- Level 1: Capable of independent mobility and ability to walk, run, ascend/descend stairs, and crouch/stand from a seated position.
- Level 2: Can use wheelchairs and scooters but has some difficulty with stairs, uneven surfaces, or tight spaces.
- Level 3: Requires assistance to move around in their environment and may require an assistive device to aid movement.
- Level 4: Requires a wheelchair for all mobility needs and requires help with transfers, dressing, bathing, etc.
- Level 5: Completely immobile and requires a power wheelchair or device to move around in their environment. May require help with all activities of daily living.
Note that the GMFCS levels are not an indication of intelligence or cognitive ability but rather a way to guide the level of physical mobility needed to function in a given environment.
Each individual may require different levels of assistance depending on their specific needs and abilities. In addition, it is important to remember that all individuals have the potential to reach their full potential, regardless of their physical limitations.
GMFCS example (sample)
We have prepared a GMFCS PDF template example to help you see how this form works. It illustrates how to jot down patient information and explain your findings in writing. You can view the sample here or download it as a PDF.
When to use this GMFCS assessment?
This GMFCS assessment should be used to assess children's mobility levels and determine which physical assistance levels are needed. You can use this scale to:
Assess the degree to which a person needs assistance every day
The GMFCS can help you identify the areas in which a patient can perform activities of daily living on their own, with minimal assistance, or with complete reliance on others. It can also help you understand how their physical abilities affect their overall quality of life.
Design interventions for physical or occupational therapy
Based on the GMFCS, you can customize your physical or occupational therapy treatment plan to suit the individual’s needs. It will help you understand the most effective interventions and how to adjust them as the individual’s physical abilities change.
Determine the level of mobility to recommend for a person with physical disabilities.
You may use this scale to help inform your decision when recommending a level of mobility for a child with physical disabilities. Knowing the individual’s current GMFCS level can help you decide which mobility aids, techniques, and strategies are best for that person.
Evaluate the outcomes of treatments or interventions
The GMFCS can also be used to evaluate the outcomes of treatments or interventions. By tracking changes in your patient’s GMFCS level over time, you can determine how a particular intervention or treatment has impacted their physical abilities and mobility. This may help inform your decision-making process when selecting future treatments.
Who are these GMFCS Scale PDF for?
The GMFCS Scale PDF is designed to be used by the following healthcare professionals:
- Physical therapists
- Occupational therapists
- Speech-language pathologists
The scale may also be used by parents, teachers, and other professionals who work with children with cerebral palsy. Note that the scale should be used with other assessments, such as those focused on cognitive development, motor skills, and communication.
Benefits of free GMFCS Scale
This free GMFCS Scale will provide healthcare professionals with a reliable and easy-to-use tool to assess the level of functioning in children with cerebral palsy. Here are some of its other benefits:
It’s easy to administer
Our free GMFCS Scale worksheet provides an easy-to-understand format for assessing a child's level of functioning. You can get results within minutes and decide on what type of treatment and interventions may be necessary.
It's fully digital
If you're an online practitioner or a professional working remotely, our free GMFCS Scale is fully digital and can be accessed anytime. You can assess the level of functioning in a child with cerebral palsy without ever having to leave your office or desk.
It helps patients and their guardians better understand their condition
This GMFCS Scale is designed to help patients and their guardians better understand the level of functioning in a child with cerebral palsy. It provides a baseline of the child’s abilities so that they can track their progress over time.
Why use this GMFCS app?
Carepatron is on a mission to revolutionize how you manage your physical therapy practice. Our cloud-based practice management software offers comprehensive tools to help you streamline operations.
With Carepatron, you can easily manage billing, automate appointment scheduling, track patient visits, generate custom reports, and more – all from one convenient platform! Our user-friendly interface lets you quickly access the information you need to make informed decisions. Plus, our innovative features enable you to provide better patient care, improve communication, and increase efficiency.
Say goodbye to time-consuming tasks and inefficient operations, and say hello to a simpler way of managing your practice with Carepatron!
GMFCS descriptors copyright © Palisano et al. (1997) Dev Med Child Neurol 39:214-23 CanChild
Illustrations copyright Version 2 © Bill Reid, Kate Willoughby, Adrienne Harvey and Kerr Graham, The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne.