Midland City, Alabama - Day 7: A red Hotwheels car and some Cheez-its were all the little boy with Asperger's asked for while being held hostage. He came up out of the 4-foot deep bunker after being against his will for 7 days physically unharmed and ambulanced to a nearby hospital. It ended with a gunshot and a loud explosion, according to witnesses on the scene.
On Wednesday, Ethan will turn six years old.
While reports of the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on armed services veterans such as the one who killed Chris Kyle are heard throughout the news this day, this too is a story of a veteran who turned into a menacing, vigilant, and guarded man. The kidnapper, Jimmy Lee Dykes, was said to have moved back to Midland City, Alabama two years ago from Florida. He served in the U.S. Navy, doing a tour of duty in Vietnam and earned a Medal of Honor. He not only was menacing to neighbors flashing a gun and shooting it into the air, but he was bludgeoned a neighbor's dog to death with a heavy lead pipe, only because it barked too loud.
A child with Asperger's is one who will plan his birthday far, far in advance, know the weeks, days and hours until it arrives and has every small detail ironed out, obsessively asking over and over questions to help with the planning. Happily, Ethan now can celebrate that birthday.
They say Ethan was not harmed. That he was seen laughing at one point at the hospital. As a professional in the field of Autism, I cannot say whether or not there will be long-lasting effects, but the likelihood is very strong. This is because the difficulties most with Asperger's Syndrome face long into adulthood are depression and anxiety coupled with phobias.
Children, like Ethan with Asperger's tend to have strong memory skills, the ability to calculate quickly, and an encylopedic knowledge of intricate machinery, technical schematics; all skills to propel them into success as adults. However, the downside to Asperger's is the devastating level of anxiety and phobias. These phobias can sometimes be seen as irrational. For example they might have a fear of bugs to the level where the child or adult with ASD will not go outside at all, not even to go to the car or bus to go to school or work. As you might guess, this is what makes it even harder for someone with ASD to socialize, a skill they need to constantly hone.
Witnesses and FBI reported how Ethan occasionally cried out for his mother, who was kept secretly on the scene and guarded by SWAT. She and his family stood bravely and held up strong for him while the community of thousands mourned the loss of the bus driver who heroically sacrificed his own life for the other children on the bus that day. Little Ethan was grabbed so quickly while the rest huddled in the back where the kidnapper, Dykes, could not take them. He was most likely thinking about his upcoming birthday and sitting near the front.
PTSD seems to keep cycling. Those in the news lately seem to want to go out in a blaze of glory and cause it in those who may have lived their entire lives without ever seeing any violence at all. Is that possible anymore?