The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

February 7, 2013

Experts warn of long recovery for boy in bunker

(Continued)

The boy's aunt and grandmother — with whom Ethan and his mother have lived — said they are intent on protecting him from the media spotlight and helping him return to as normal a life as possible.

"I just want him to be all right," aunt Debra Cook told The Associated Press in an interview this week.

Kaslow, the psychiatrist, said family support and friendship will be key.

Authorities have said boy has Asperger's syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and Ethan's medical condition and any past difficulties in his short life could make recovery from the hostage ordeal even tougher, said Dr. Niranjan Karnik, an assistant psychiatry professor at the University of Chicago.

"This incident has probably put him at more risk for having difficulties later on," he said. "He could be more susceptible to depressive episodes ... and anxiety."

But young children often can recover from traumatic episodes faster than adults, he said.

"Kids in this age range typically do remarkably well ... in the face of a terrible thing. In a way, kids have more of that bounce-back that adults do. Things don't gel as hard in kids as they do in adults," said Karnik.

While only a town of 2,300 people, Midland City is less than 10 miles away from Dothan, which has the largest medical infrastructure in southeast Alabama. Aside from two hospitals in the city, patients also can receive treatment through a state-affiliated mental health center in Dothan, said Alabama Mental Health Commissioner Jim Reddoch.

Angie Bradley is clinical director for SpectraCare Health Systems, a state contractor which provides mental health services in the area that includes Midland City. While declining comment on Ethan or whether workers have treated him, she said the nonprofit organization provides a "myriad" of services for children in a rural, five-county area.

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