I am from Indiana and my 2 year old son, Kaleb has PKU. My childcare provider is the greatest in the world and she has written something about her experience with Kaleb. I believe that what she has to say goes a long way to dispel the negativity regarding strangers and how they react to children with PKU.
We hired Connie and signed her contract before Kaleb was born. After we discovered he had PKU, we gave her an opportunity to tear up the contract and she was appalled we would even suggest it. She is very strict with Kaleb's diet and is always trying new recipes for him. We are proud of Connie and her relationship with all of "her kids."
I might also add that Connie has now created a "yes food" and "no food" book with Kaleb. They cut out pictures of foods from magazines and grocery ads and Kaleb pastes them on either the "yes" or "no" side of the divider. To my husband Paul and me, Connie is a miracle and could never be replaced!—Corinna M. Vonderwell, Vincennes, Indiana
It happened one day in the Spring of 1995. I put everyone down for their nap when I settled down with my ice cream sandwich. Suddenly I noticed the wide, curious eyes of 5 month old Kaleb Vonderwell watching me eat. At that moment, the full impact of a PKU diet hit me. My name is Connie Combs and I am a child care provider.
I had anticipated Kaleb's birth since July. I knew that by December I would have a new baby in my home. He was to be the ninth child in my day care. Late in November, I received a call from Corinna (Kaleb's mom) telling me about Kaleb's PKU. She also offered to forget our contract if I felt the responsibility of caring for this special child was too great. That was not an option for me. I felt like this baby needed me; that I could help him get a good start in life. You see, I only saw a baby with a special need - not a special need with a baby.
It was January when I finally began to keep Kaleb full-time. At first it was a little frightening. Corinna showed me how to make his special formula and to measure and weigh his food. It seemed like there was tons and tons of literature to read about PKU. Every day got a little easier - plus Kaleb was a good baby. His smile could melt my heart!
When Kaleb started eating table food, it was like starting over for me. I found it exciting to try new recipes and foods to see his reaction.
All the children in my care know about PKU. We talk about it openly and honestly in terms they can understand, although we do not dwell on the subject. It is not uncommon for one of the other kids to say they wish they had Kaleb's "special diet." In fact, my two oldest girls (ages 4 and 5) sometimes double check me to make sure Kaleb has the right cookie or the correct glass of "milk".
Kaleb is a very bright boy and when he was about 18 months old and beginning to feed himself at the table with the other children, he would always check to see if his plate matched everyone else's (we use blue plates). He would not eat unless his plate was also blue!
As he got a little older, he would check to see if everyone else had carrots, peas or whatever I was feeding him. It is not at all uncommon for him to turn down a graham cracker if everyone else is eating vanilla wafers. Usually though, as long as I hand him his snack using the same hand as I hand the others, all is well.
It is very important to Kaleb to be "one of the kids." Kaleb is a handsome, bright, energetic two year old who's biggest problem is not that he has PKU, but that he has the "terrible two's!"
Yes, my methods of cooking have changed in my day care. I like to think I'm more aware of each child's dietary needs, and I am very careful of all their diets. Cooking for Kaleb can be time consuming, and sometimes hard to calculate, but the more I do it the easier it becomes. I enjoy watching all of my kids grow and develop and Kaleb's special needs have only enhanced my understanding of each child's dietary needs.