PKU & School, by Annie Skidmore
Starting school or college at whatever age is daunting – but coupled with PKU it can make it a very stressful and unnerving experience. However, there are some simple tips and tricks that I have learnt through the years which can help it be a smoother transition and less nerve racking.
I started school when I was 3 and stayed at the same school until I left for college after GCSE’s. However, I have moved through the primary and secondary school which involved different challenges. I was lucky that my school provided hot school dinners on a weekly rota each term. This meant packed lunches were off-limits, which was a challenge initially, but in the long run it worked out for the best. I had the other student’s menu and then I made a low-protein version which was similar e.g., used the same veg/potatoes and had a similar pudding such as low-protein jam tart and custard. This worked well and I was lucky to have great cooks who would prepare, cook, and bake my low protein food including weighing foods out and they always including me in themed days etc. However, this did require a lot of preplanning and bringing in food on a termly basis. I was involved in constructing the menus with some help from my mum but eventually took the reins on it in high school. Not all schools are so great, but this is how I worked it to suit me and work with the school’s arrangements. Other schools welcome packed lunches which would make the PKU diet a little easier but whatever you need I have some top tips which may help your experience.
MY TOP TIPS:
Be prepared – this is key to the PKU diet. If you know in advance the school provides hot dinners, get in touch with the cooks, explain the diet and see the best situation for you.
Get creative – having dinners that looked fairly like the others helped me to fit in and not feel left out. This can be tricky but trust me it means a lot and will help you feel more positive towards the diet.
Don’t be hard on yourself – you will not always get it right. There will be ups and downs along the way but don’t be hard on yourself. You will learn what works best and in the end it will be new for both you and the school, so work together and don’t be afraid to voice any concerns.
Be organised – this is another important one. Being organised means that if there is a special day coming up e.g., a themed day or Christmas dinner you can arrange to have a similar meal in line with your PKU diet and this also helps you to feel less different to others.
Be confident – trust your own judgements, don’t be afraid to speak up, voice any concerns or ask any questions you need to help you feel at ease. This will help the transition through school and enjoy all the experiences that others do e.g., special days, sports days, school trips, overnight/abroad visits with less worry.
So, remember get prepared, get organised, and you will have a much smoother ride through school and still enjoy it like all fellow students!