Laurie Ferris knew what it was like to have an animated son. She knew about the high-energy level, the wide mood swings and the rough play style that came with having a child as active as her Zachary was. However, unlike most mothers, Laurie also knew what it was like to fear for her life, living in the same home as a 7-year-old who had once tried to kill her.
"When he was angry, it was over the top. It wasn't like a normal tantrum," she said. "He would scream, he would pick toys up, wing them at us, punch holes in the wall, smear feces on the wall."
Laurie began to truly fear Zach one afternoon when he was 7. "I was just washing dishes at the sink. All of a sudden, I just felt Zach behind me and I turned around," she recalled. "He had a kitchen knife in his hand and he had his arm poised back. He had a crazy look in his eyes, as though he was going to stab me."
She grabbed the knife out of her son's hand, but Laurie was forever shaken by the chilling incident. Her husband, Joe, had his own fears back then, wondering if he was going to find his wife and their young daughter alive when he returned home from work each day.
"To be scared of your own kid or what he might do, it's indescribable," Joe said, shakily. "It's something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy."
By age 10, Zach was diagnosed with four different mental health issues, including sensory integration disorder. He spoke with Oprah several years ago about how he was coping with his rage. "When I'm calm and peaceful like I am now, this is the real me," Zach explained quietly. "When I'm all out of control, that's not the real me."
Today, Zachary is a 14-year-old high school student, and life for the Ferris family is now much calmer as a whole.
"I would describe Zach as confident in his own skin, creative, funny, happy overall," Laurie tells "Oprah: Where Are They Now?". "He's an extraordinarily loving human being -- he's always been that way, even in the darkest times."
Zach has made such strides in controlling his anger that he no longer attends an alternative school for the first time since second grade. "He is now able to access education in a public setting," Laurie says. "With the tools that he's learned over the years now, he's able to function really well."
"There is no more fear in the house," Joe adds. "Zach has been able to gain my trust through his actions and he's come a long way."
Using a practice called Energetic Mindfulness, Zach has been able to keep himself centered, calming his mind through quiet reflection and thought.
"I feel like I am a really calm person today," he says. "When I used to feel rage, I'd always want to hurt somebody back then. Now, today, not so much. I've just been more peaceful."