The 5-year-old boy who was being held hostage in an underground bunker in Alabama for nearly a week was handled in a highly professional manner by the crew of Ozark Ambulance on Monday. The ambulance, operated by the city of Ozark, was on standby throughout the ordeal.
However, the way in which the crew handled the care and transport of the young child, rescued from his abductor—now dead—deserves special recognition. State Rep. Steve Clouse, who represents the Midland City area, had reported that the boy has Asperger's syndrome, as well as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.
The National alliance on Mental Illness notes that Asperger Syndrome involves several social impairments and restricted interests. A diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome is given to individuals who experienced no speech or cognitive delay as children—they were talking on time and have at least a normal IQ—but who nevertheless display a range of autistic-like behaviors and ways of taking in the world. Hallmark characteristics of Asperger’s include emersion in an all-consuming interest and a one-sided, self-focused social approach. Not everyone who is eccentric has Asperger’s and not everyone with Asperger’s is a genius. Each person is differently able across several areas of challenge and giftedness.(1)
In a press conference Monday night, FBI Special Agent Steve Richardson told reporters the little boy had endured a lot and that he was receiving medical treatment. "The boy is laughing, joking, playing, he's eating; he's very brave, he's very lucky, and the success story is that he is out safe and doing good," he said.(2)
Because children with Asperger’s have a hard time understanding socially what is really going on around them, it was key that the Ozark EMS crew handled the young boy in a friendly, calm manner and escorted him away from the scene with no lights or sirens. More importantly, it was noteworthy that the driver of the ambulance drove at slow speed to keep the child from getting emotionally upset.
Children with Asperger’s are not content to be alone all the time and they long to form friendships with others. Since they cannot read social or emotional cues well, they come off as insensitive, pushy or strange, yet have very little insight into how they are perceived.
In a positive sense, because children with Asperger’s tend to have desire to interact (an area that sets them apart from those with traditional autism), the child in this hostage situation was probably not fully aware of the significant danger he was facing and somewhat re-directed to an association with his captor.(1)
Throughout the ordeal, authorities had been speaking with Dykes though a plastic pipe that went into the shelter. They also sent food, medicine and other items into the bunker, which apparently had running water, heat and cable television but no toilet. It was about 4 feet underground, with about 50 square feet of floor space. The little boy requested Cheez-Its and a red Hot Wheels car, both of which were delivered to the bunker.(2)
"I am so happy this little boy can now be reunited with his family and friends," Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said in a statement. "We will all continue to pray for the little boy and his family as they recover from the trauma of the last several days."
Dykes was described in the media as a loner who railed against the government, lived up a dirt road outside a tiny hamlet north of Dothan in the southeast corner of the state. His home was just off the main road north to the state capital of Montgomery, about 80 miles away.
His neighbors described Dykes as a man who once beat a dog to death with a lead pipe, threatened to shoot children for setting foot on his property, and patrolled his yard at night with a flashlight and a firearm. The Dykes property consisted of a white trailer which, according to Creel, Dykes said he bought from FEMA after it was used to house evacuees from Hurricane Katrina. The property also has a steel shipping container -- like those on container ships -- in which Dykes stored tools and supplies.
Next to the container is the underground bunker where authorities say Dykes holed up with the 5-year-old. Neighbors say that the bunker has a pipe so Dykes could hear people coming near his driveway. Authorities used the ventilation pipe to communicate with him.
To send your own special thanks to the men and women of Ozark EMS, go to the Ozark EMS FACEBOOK page.