Six-year-old Zach Tahir suffers from pica, a rare condition that causes him to eat objects that aren't edible.
"I'm the boy who eats his own bedroom — living with PICA — I'm Following ZACH RU?"
This is how Zach Tahir, who is celebrating his sixth birthday today, describes himself on his Twitter account.
Zach, who lives in Salford, Greater Manchester, England, suffers from a rare condition called pica, which causes him to crave wall plaster, along with other inedible objects such as mud, moss and hair.
But Zach received a special birthday present after he ate up his last bedroom — an inedible bedroom he can't munch on.
Zach's family has been raising the funds required to build the approximately $55,000 bedroom though a campaign to help provide a safe environment for him to live in. They have documented his life through pictures on Facebook and Twitter, where many people, including local celebrities, have expressed support for Zach by posing with a red "I'm following ZACH RU?" sign.
"I knew something was different with Zach from around 6 months he wasn't developing at the same rate as other children his age," Zach's mother Rachel Horn wrote on Zach's Facebook page. "He wasn't babbling, waving, etc."
Horn took Zach to the doctor when he was 9 months and voiced her concerns, but was told that there was nothing wrong with him. Horn continued to meet with other specialists and doctors and Zach was finally diagnosed with autism and learning disabilities when he turned 3.
"Zach has a mental age of below age 1 and toys for 12 months and below are suitable for him," Horn wrote. "Zach has no speech ... not one word and has very little understanding especially of danger."
According to Horn, Zach likes to have something to chew on all the time, normally a wet cloth. Zach's pica disorder means that "he will eat almost anything," Horn said.
Zach's favorites include mud, moss, stones, thread, paper, clothes, plaster and hair.
Pica is a pattern of eating non-food materials, such as dirt or paper. It is seen more in young children than in adults. Pregnant women can also get pica. In some cases iron and zinc deficiencies may trigger the unusual cravings.
According to Horn, Zach gets about four hours of sleep every night. The rest of the time he makes sounds, bounces around and "eats anything in his room that he can get his hands on," most recently his sleeping bag. He ate the insides of two of them. Zach also loves to climb on his windowsill and eat his blackout blinds and the wallpaper at the top of his window.
Zach's new bedroom has squash-court walls whose tough surface will prevent him from gnawing through them. The room is also equipped with special furniture that he can't bite into and slanted windowsills that are difficult to climb.
"He has been so much calmer and he hasn't even attempted to get off his bed," Horn said. "It looks like he's getting more sleep, which is fantastic. I am so happy with the room; it's less stress for me."
Horn has installed CCTV in Zach's bedroom, which she can monitor through her cell phone.
"It's a huge weight off my mind being able to watch him when he's in the room," Horn said.
Zach attends a special school. There are only six children in his class and four teachers, his mother said, adding that it's becoming apparent as he grows older that he needs one-on-one care. "Sometimes even two-on-one, as he's so fast at getting what he wants when outside, normally mud," she said.
"Zach cannot feed himself and dinner times are very stressful for him and for me," Horn said. "Zach is still in his nappies and does not tell me when his nappy is full. Zach is a 5-year-old baby."
Boy with rare disorder given 'inedible' bedroom