Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Developmental checks - the 'U' appointments

Another birthday approaches (or flies by in our case) and so looms the next 'U' appointment.  These appointments are regular developmental checks of children six in the first year, then annually up to the age of five - and then a few more up to 16. 

So Son No2 turned five in May and today we had the U9 just to make sure he's hitting his developmental targets, his basic health is OK and so on.  We were there in all for just over an hour - if nothing else, the German health care system isn't rushed!!

On arrival he had a hearing test (and would have had a sight test too - but as he wears glasses this is done by the Augenarzt or eye-doctor), had his blood pressure and urine checked and was asked to draw a picture of a man.  All was going swimmingly until he was asked to draw...... We don't like to draw/write/colour - oh dear well that's a cross on the box - I'm sure little Fritz would have been much more compliant  as it was I managed to coerce him into an 'H' and that was all he'd put to paper.  Whilst this was all going on I had a questionnaire to fill in asking about what he can and can't do for example:

  • draw a man (clearly not)
  • catch a ball from a distance of 3-4m
  • ride a bike - with or without stabilisers and for how long
  • understand others' emotions
  • get dressed/undressed alone
  • play well in small groups
And so on - there were three sections here analysing physical competence, social competence and their speech/language development.  The first two were filled in fairly easily (once I'd checked the meaning of a couple of words - my German is still not as good as it ought to be....)

Speech and Language  development is a whole other kettle of fish.  We're currently having speech therapy with him in order to improve both his German vocabulary and also his pronunciation.  As far as I can make out, this seems to be a right of passage for German children - we see a good few Kindergarten friends at the Speech Therapist's office.  The German approach here seems to be to get it right as early as possible when the children are still learning and adaptable so as not to have any problems speaking or being understood once they hit proper school. We went through this process with No1 Son and he had about two years' worth of extra help.  It's interesting to note that there seem to be some sounds we we as an English family just can't say right - 'ch' sounds and the 'r' sounds in particular.  In the same way that most Germans cannot pronounce 'th' in the correct way in English.

Anyway back to No2 son, being brought up in a bilingual environment has meant his speech and language development has been slightly behind the usual milestones - this is apparently completely usual in children learning 2 languages, and in the last couple of years, it has been amazing to watch the way the second language develops.  He is in German kindergarten and so if he wants to communicate with staff and friends, must speak German.  We speak English at home and so he has had to adapt to switching between the two languages.  There are a couple of things which strike me as worth mentioning in regard to this dual learning.  Firstly, the German seems to be semi-dominant in that whilst the boys speak English at home and with me their word order or choice of word is often very German and this does sound odd to my English ear.  Secondly, as their vocab develops, certain things they know first in German and then 'translate' to English - for example No1 son always says 'overtomorrow' for the day after tomorrow - which is a literal translation of √úbermorgen.  No2 son was talking about 'loading people in' to his birthday party - again from the German 'Einladung'.  None of these small issues are quite so weird as the two of them playing together in German....that seems just plain wrong to me - but I think they do it subconsciously (either that or it's so I can't understand what they're saying.  Now if that's not an incentive to sort my lessons out I don't know what is!)

Anyway, I digress..... We still haven't actually seen the Doctor at this point.  We still have to be weighed and measured and then we hang around for the Doctor to come and talk to us about the questionnaire and if we have any other concerns and also for them to do a bit more of a physical exam - heart and lungs listened to, stomach palpated, ENT check and then some physical tasks - can you hop....and so on.  She was particularly concerned with our lack of drawing and somehow managed to get him to draw her a passable man (well more a humpty-dumpty but that sufficed!).  An hour later and there are no major concerns - he's in good shape and nothing to worry about!!

So that would have been him done and dusted, but there have been some more 'U' appointments introduced so his next is in about three years time.  We have all this fun to come with No1 son in two months time.....  I'm sure you can probably opt out of them....but then again, this is Germany so who knows!


  1. really interesting to read this - the health checks in UK (certainly where we are) have all but vanished as far as I can tell. My daughter who is 6 now barely saw a health visitor/doctor for any kind of developmental check - indeed, while my son (2.5 yrs older) did have something at 8 months, even that had gone by the time no. 2 was that age. Apparently now it's for parents to flag if they think there is a problem - which is a recipe for disaster if you ask me. There's also an argument not to over do these things, but to be frank, I'd quite like the comfort of the regular checks myself!

  2. "Overtomorrow" is a brilliant word!