A little autistic boy is eating his mother out of house and home -- literally -- due to a rare disorder where he has a constant need to chew. He tries to eat everything from window blinds to the plaster on his walls.
From Salford in the UK, five-year-old Zach Tahir, who cannot speak, suffers from a rare form of a condition known as Pica.
The disorder, Yahoo!7 reports, often featured on hit US TV show My Strange Addiction, means people feel compelled to eat non-food materials such as dirt or fabric.
He’s been gnawing away at his home’s walls, carpet and couches, the New York Post adds.
According to the Daily Mail, Pica is surprisingly common - although cases as extreme as Zach's are rare. Experts say as many as 21 per cent of children aged one to six can suffer it at some stage.
The word 'pica' derives from the Latin word for magpie - a bird with a reputation for eating almost everything. It appeared in medical texts as far back as 1563 and is believed to be common in pregnant women.
In some cases, a lack of certain minerals - such as iron and zinc - may trigger the unusual cravings.
Diagnosed with autism and learning difficulties at age three, experts believe Zach's constant need to chew stems from a desire to stimulate his senses.
"People with autism often experience sensory difficulties," Caroline Hattersley, of The National Autistic Society told the Manchester Evening News. "For some individuals, the texture or taste of inedible items may give positive sensory input."
His mother, Rachel Horn,32, has to go to extraordinary lengths to keep him safe. She rips up celery to encourage him to eat it instead of thread, and has even tried sprinkling nuts on the carpet. Rachel is now trying to raise funds for a 'safe room', where Zach can't eat through the home.
"He eats almost anything – mud and moss, stones, carpet, grow bags, thread, paper, wallpaper and hair," she told the Manchester Evening News.
“He loves to climb on his windowsill and eat his black-out blind. He likes to have something to chew on at all times. It is not the taste he likes, but the texture.
"It’s frustrating as Zach doesn’t speak – not one word – and meal times are a nightmare. He doesn’t sleep much and I get exhausted, but unlike other autistic children he loves to give me hugs and he dances,” Horn said.
Horn needs to raise over $24,000 to build Zach's safe room.
She has organized events including a sponsored walk in Buile Hill Park on June 3 and a car boot sale a week later.
If you would like more information on Zach or would like to help his cause please visit his Face book page called Giving Zach A Safe Future or email firstname.lastname@example.org