(LONDON) — After Zach Tahir started to snack on the plaster from his bedroom walls, his mother, Rachel Horn, had an idea for a perfect present for his sixth birthday: an “inedible” bedroom.
Tahir suffers from pica, a condition that is defined as a pattern of eating non-food materials. In addition to eating plaster, he has also eaten blinds, stones, moss and paper.
To pay for the new room, Horn was given £26,000 from her local government council for her son’s disability and then raised an additional £10,000 through fundraising and an extensive Twitter campaign that featured local celebrities from the U.K. television show Coronation Street.
Horn says that Tahir, who is also autistic, enjoys the sensation of eating textured items such as something excessively crunchy, but Horn has been unsuccessful in substituting safe food items for his favorite non-food treats.
“Bless him, for Zach it has to be the real thing,” Horn told ABC News.
Tahir’s new room features chew-proof walls made from the same material as squash courts, a non-slip floor that can’t be picked at and new blinds safely confined between window panes.
For Horn, monitoring Tahir’s intake has become a full time job. The 32-year-old quit work as a bank teller to care for Tahir and his 3-year-old sister.
According to the NIH, people suffering from pica may eat dirt, clay, hairballs, ice or animal feces among other things to satisfy their craving. Children are most likely to have the condition with up to 32 percent of kids between the ages of 1 and 6 exhibiting some of these behaviors.
The most common afflictions for those with pica include intestinal obstruction, malnutrition, lead poisoning or Bezoar, which is a mass of indigestible material trapped in the body.
Horn says that Tahir has been lucky enough not have suffered from any complications as a result of pica.
In addition to the chew-proof bedroom, Tahir’s room features a closed circuit camera so his mother can keep an eye on him.
“It’s going to make my life so much more better,” said Horn of the new room. “It’s just I don’t have to worry, knowing that he’s in this safe room and I can watch him on the [camera] is huge weight off my shoulders.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio