The GMFCS in Detail

wood alphabet blocksThe Gross Motor Function Classification System (GMFCS) was created in 1997 by Robert Palisano, Peter Rosenbaum, Stephen Walter, Dianne Russell, Ellen Wood and Barbara Galuppi of the CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research, McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. In 2007, Palisano, Rosenbaum, Doreen Bartlett and Michael Livingston released an expanded and revised version that included information on older children ages 12 to 18.

The GMFCS describes mobility-related abilities for children under the age of 2 years; from age 2 to age 4; from age 4 to age 6; from age 6 to age 12; and from age 12 to age 18. Those abilities are grouped into five levels, with Level I in each age category describing the most complex, functional activities, and Level V describing the most basic activities.

The activities change to remain age appropriate as the child ages. For example, a child with a Level I score before the age of 2 is capable of sitting on the floor with both hands free to manipulate objects. Expected activities for a child with a Level I score at the age of 8 include getting into and out of a chair without needing hand support, and moving from the floor to a chair without needing objects for support.

The GMFCS also includes information on how to determine the most accurate score for a child. For example, instructions recommend paying attention to and most heavily weighing a child’s typical abilities — actions the child most commonly performs — rather than focusing on a more complex “best” physical achievement that the child can only rarely accomplish.

For more information on the GMFCS E&R (expanded and revised), go to https://tinyurl.com/gmfcspdf.

This article originally appeared in the January 2019 issue of Mobility Management.

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