Aim  The aim of this study was to investigate the acquisition of self-care and mobility skills in children with cerebral palsy (CP) in relation to their manual ability and gross motor function.

Method  Data from the Pediatric Evaluation of Disability Inventory (PEDI) self-care and mobility functional skill scales, the Manual Ability Classification System (MACS), and the Gross Motor Function Classification System (GMFCS) were collected from 195 children with CP (73 females, 122 males; mean age 8y 1mo; SD 3y 11mo; range 3–15y); 51% had spastic bilateral CP, 36% spastic unilateral CP, 8% dyskinetic CP, and 3% ataxic CP. The percentage of children classified as MACS levels I to V was 28%, 34%, 17%, 7%, and 14% respectively, and classified as GMFCS levels I to V was 46%, 16%, 15%, 11%, and 12% respectively.

Results  Children classified as MACS and GMFCS levels I or II scored higher than children in MACS and GMFCS levels III to V on both the self-care and mobility domains of the PEDI, with significant differences between all classification levels (p<0.001). The stepwise multiple regression analysis verified that MACS was the strongest predictor of self-care skills (66%) and that GMFCS was the strongest predictor of mobility skills (76%). A strong correlation between age and self-care ability was found among children classified as MACS level I or II and between age and mobility among children classified as GMFCS level I. Many of these children achieved independence, but at a later age than typically developing children. Children at other MACS and GMFCS levels demonstrated minimal progress with age.

Interpretation  Knowledge of a child’s MACS and GMFCS level can be useful when discussing expectations of, and goals for, the development of functional skills.