Almost 10 days have passed since the FBI sent a rescue team into the bunker in Midland City, Alabama, where 6-year-old Ethan was held hostage for nearly a week by Jimmy Lee Dykes. On Wednesday, he and his mother spent time with Governor Robert Bentley. They also spoke with television personality Phil McGraw. During the interview Ethan's mother told Dr. Phil that despite the smiling photos, her son is acutely aware of what happened to his abductor and his bus driver. This morning, clinical forensic psychologist Patricia Saunders weighs in on the interview and what Ethan faces ahead.
Saunders, who has served as a clinical psychologist for over 30 years, says “It’s kind of hard to tell how and autistic child or a kid with Asperger's syndrome processes these kinds of experiences” although “it’s not that dissimilar from the way a normal kid” would process a similar situation.
She adds that Ethan’s exaggerated startled response is a sign that he has acute stress syndrome and that is a “normal reaction.” Saunders adds that the behavior Ethan has displayed, “suggests that he’s frightened and the only person he feels safe with is his mom.”
A grownup’s job is to communicate to kids that we are there to protect them and help them feel safe, says Saunders. She adds, that although Ethan’s mother is showing him that he will be protected, she needs to tell him he will be safe and “of course we can’t promise that but kids his age need to hear that.”
Regarding how future interviews might affect Ethan, Saunders says “it depends how tuned in he is to social interaction which is one of the problems with kids on the autistic spectrum.” She adds, “I’m pretty conservative when it comes to work and with kids and trauma and I would say no more media, please.”