Diagnosing cerebral palsy - the 5 levels Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Cerebral palsy can come in several forms, all of which are characterised by differing levels of motor function impairment. While some cases of cerebral palsy are linked to developmental issues in the fetal stage of a child’s life, other causes include accidents during birth, after birth, or medical negligence at any stage of the fetus’ development, birth, or early life (see cerebral palsy lawyer Boston for more details on cerebral palsy due to medical negligence).

Diagnosis of cerebral palsy involves grouping and classifying the symptoms into three main categories, with a fourth category reserved for those patients who display a combination of symptoms from the first three main types of the condition. Whatever the diagnosis, the Gross Motor Function Classification System (GMFCS) is used to describe and label the severity level of the condition. There are five levels.

Level one (I)

This is the least severe level of classification relating to motor function impairment. At level one, children are observed to be demonstrably capable of full independence. This means the child is able to perform necessary tasks unaided, with minor issues over coordination or balance.

Level two (II)

At level two, mobility is generally only affected on uneven surfaces, with independence otherwise retained. For example, children with a level two diagnosis may benefit from the use of handrails on stairs, but would otherwise be considered capable of performing daily tasks.

Level three (III)

Level three is where mobility becomes a more serious issue. Children with a level three diagnosis will generally require the intermittent or permanent use of mobility aids such as crutches or a wheelchair. However, stairs may not be an issue with the use of handrails.

Level four (IV)

Level four is considered to be the level at which mobility becomes a serious issue. Children with a level four diagnosis generally cannot balance or walk for a period of time that would be considered conducive with independence. Wheelchair use is required for daily mobility needs.

Level five (V)

Level five is where the child experiences severe restrictions on voluntary muscle control. This diagnosis means that the child is not expected to balance, stand, or walk independently, instead requiring significant daily assistance for all tasks (e.g. mobility, eating, hygiene, etc.).

A diagnosis may include tests such as vision and hearing examinations, monitoring speech development, and monitoring emotional and intellectual development. Brain scans may also be used to evaluate the child’s condition.