The five-year-old boy identified only as Ethan has seen a lot in the past few days: the murder of his school bus driver, Charles Poland, Jr., several agonizing days inside an underground bunker with an armed stranger, and a dramatic rescue by federal agents.
"You would have to believe at some point there might be some re-experiencing of the trauma," clinical psychologist, Bert Pitts, said.
Pitts says he was relieved when reports of Ethan's first few hours after his rescue revealed the boy has been in good spirits giving high fives, watching cartoons and playing with his toys.
"As well as Ethan did last night in the early minutes after he was rescued, I would say that bodes well," Pitts said.
The psychologist says this especially because, according to officials, Ethan has Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism. Still, even with the good news these first few days Pitts thinks it's possible as time wears on the effects of Ethan's experience will be seen.
"You certainly expect some of the trauma to show itself and it's even a good thing for the trauma to get itself out so he doesn't just hold it in," Pitts said.
Pitts says a child like Ethan could re-experience trauma in a variety of ways from nightmares to tearfulness to changes in mood. He says it is up to the adults in his life to watch and respond to whatever may come up.
"In a way that's appropriate for his age your helping him. Also coaching his mother and teachers about what to look for just in case," Pitts said.
Pitts says Ethan's age may contribute to the type of therapy he receives. He says if Ethan does respond to the trauma he experienced the boy could be treated with play therapy where therapists use the powers of play to help clients prevent or resolve psycho-social difficulties.
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