Understand the Gross Motor Function Classification System (GMFCS) scale and its five levels of functioning. Learn how to use it with a free PDF template.

By Ericka Pingol on Jul 15, 2024.


Fact Checked by Nate Lacson.

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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 (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.

GMFCS Levels

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.

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
  • Caregivers
  • Physicians
  • 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.

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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.


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.

How to perform GMFCS Scale?
How to perform GMFCS Scale?

Commonly asked questions

How to perform GMFCS Scale?

The GMFCS Scale is a five-level classification system that assesses functional abilities in a child with cerebral palsy. To perform the GMFCS Scale, the child's physical abilities and limitations in the areas such as self-care, mobility, and fine motor skills should be evaluated.

What does the GMFCS Scale measure?

The GMFCS Scale measures the functional abilities of children with cerebral palsy. It assesses the child's physical abilities and limitations in the areas such as self-care, mobility, and fine motor skills.

What are GMFCS levels?

The GMFCS has five levels of functional abilities. These levels range from Level I (requiring the least assistance) to Level V (requiring the most assistance). A Level I diagnosis indicates that a child requires minimal assistance with mobility and can walk independently. A Level V diagnosis indicates that a child requires maximal mobility assistance and cannot walk independently.

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