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Schoolgirl With Pica Eats Bubble Wrap, Play Dough And Sand, But Not Junk Food

13/07/2015 12:05 BST | Updated 13/07/2015 12:59 BST

A schoolgirl has cravings for bubble wrap, play dough and even sand – but won't touch junk food.

Jessica Walker, from Wakefield, West Yorkshire, suffers from pica, a compulsive desire to eat non-nutritious food stuffs.

The eight-year-old's unusual taste in food was first noticed by her mum Lindsay Jackson, 37, when her daughter would crawl across the floor and eat dog biscuits right out of the bowl.

Jackson, a reflexologist, said: "It's the strangest thing, since birth she has eaten things like dog biscuits, mud and sand.

"Whenever I left her at her aunty's house she would eat her candles."

jessica walker pica

Jackson continued: "If I put a plate of chicken nuggets in front of her she picks the breaded bits off and pushes them away."

At six-months-old Jessica would also eat soap and sponges at bath time.

Jackson initially just thought it was a child's intrigue, but when she saw her daughter eating plants and mud in the garden she started to worry.

Jackson said: "Whenever I turned around she would put something else in her mouth.

"I was worried about not watching her. I put her in child care when she was two and on the first day they rang to say she was in hospital and she had eaten the sand pit."

"Then I knew something was really wrong.

"I got regular phone calls saying Jessica had taken pictures off the wall and eaten the blue tack off the back."

Neither of Jessica's sisters – Courtney, 15, or four-year-old Lauren – shares her peculiar cravings, leaving Lindsay baffled as to what was causing these symptoms.

When Jessica fell off a pram while trying to eat a sealed packet of frozen peas, Jackson stopped believing it was just a phase.

Despite falling and cutting her head open, Jessica was determined to get at the food inside, before mum and her partner Carl Walker, 34, rushed her to hospital.

Jackson said: "It was terrifying - she fell a good couple of feet off the pram and hit her head.

"But, even though she'd hurt herself, all she did was go straight back for the peas.

"It was almost like she was possessed."

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At the hospital, a specialist told them about Pica and Jackson says that's when it all clicked into place.

Pica is most common in pregnant women and people with learning disabilities – Jessica also has ADHD and sensory processing disorder.

It can cause a range of serious complications if the person is eating something that is poisonous or indigestible.

Jackson said: "Normally pica is making up for a vitamin deficiency.

"That's not the case with Jessica – she only eats healthy food.

"She loves all types of vegetables – sometimes when it's still frozen unfortunately.

"But whenever I give her oven food like chicken nuggets or chips, she eats around them.

"I do wonder whether she's trying to balance out the pica."

Despite having a diagnosis for more than five years, there is no sign of Jessica's symptoms abating.

Jackson is currently gearing up to start her own reflexology business, so she has brought packaging equipment into the house and this has created a new problem.

"The other day we found Jessica had chewed through a long length of bubble wrap," said Jackson.

"Fortunately she hadn't ingested anything, but I think that's only because she couldn't bite through.

"I've been trying to give her more independence and treat her like a 'normal' child and trust her more.

"But after this I just don't know whether I ever can."

With no known cure for Pica, Jackson has to try and find ways to curb the strength of Jessica's symptoms.

Jackson thinks it may be linked to stress, so she performs reflexology massages on Jessica's toes and fingers to calm her down, but it doesn't always work.

"I fear for when she's an adult," said Jackson.

"There's so little support for Pica in this country that I don't know how she'll cope.

"What will happen if this carries on when she has kids? I'm scared they'll pick up her eating habits."

The Challenging Behaviour Foundation, a charity for people with severe learning disabilities and difficult behaviour, told HuffPost UK Parents: "It is estimated that four to 26 per cent of people with learning disabilities display pica behaviour.

"Whilst some objects pass through the body without harm, pica can potentially be life threatening.

"Addressing these behaviours as soon as possible can prevent problems later in life, and can greatly improve the lives of children and their families."

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