GMFCS visual aide, with images and information on the different levels of the classification system.
The Gross Motor Function Classification System or GMFCS, is a description of how an individual with CP moves around in their community and daily life. It may feel overwhelming to think about your child’s GMFCS level. However, as a parent or caregiver, having this information will help you understand your child’s immediate needs and realistic next steps/goals. Once you know your child’s GMFCS, you can take it to your child’s professional care team to discuss your child’s care plan with the GMFCS information in mind.

The Gross Motor Function Classification System: Why is it so important?

The Gross Motor Classification System (GMFCS) is used by therapists, clinicians and surgeons to help families: 

  1. Understand a child’s current abilities;
  2. Identify what interventions/supports are most appropriate for them;  
  3. Determine how often a child should be monitored for hip dysplasia and other conditions commonly seen in people with cerebral palsy.
In a recent survey of parents of children with CP, 92% of caregivers reported that they preferred to learn about their child’s GMFCS level, but less than half of the survey participants had this information. Eighty-three percent of caregivers said it would be helpful to revisit this information over time.
Amy Bailes, PT, PhD –

Now that you have your child’s (GMFCS) level here are some related questions you may wish to ask your professional team:

  1. What will my child’s long-term development look like? You can talk to your professional team if you wish to learn more about the GMFCS and how it can be used along with the Motor Growth Curves to project your child’s development over time.
  2. Are my child’s hips being monitored? “One in three people with CP will develop hip displacement.” Share and discuss the following care pathway on hip surveillance by the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine (AACPDM). The hip monitoring care information is organized by GMFCS level. Sharing your child’s GMFCS level will help your clinical team determine how frequently to x-ray you’re your child’s hips: A 2016 survey of the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America membership found widespread agreement that a dislocated hip in a child with CP should be prevented by hip surveillance (93%), yet only a small proportion (18%) followed a regular surveillance program.
  3. Do I have the right equipment to support my child’s development? Your professional team, especially therapists, can help you understand what types of equipment are appropriate for your child. This may include mobility equipment, i.e., walkers, wheelchairs/power wheelchairs etc., self-care / care-giving equipment, i.e., toileting, bathing, etc. or other devices, e.g., standers. When supportive equipment is used in the right circumstances, it can promote your child’s development, health and well-being, participation and independence. It can also offer relief to caregivers by reducing the effort and energy you need to use to support their child.

These are just a few ways the GMFCS information can be helpful for families. Speak to your professional team about more ways the GMFCS can help you understand and best support your child or loved one with CP.

For more information, download our free cerebral palsy tool kit.