After trauma, children are likely to have temporary bouts of sleeplessness and cling to adults. Some will want to talk about the experience, and other children will not.
The long-term effects of trauma can include the signs of post-traumatic stress: chronic sleeplessness, anxiety, depression as well as substance abuse, said Dodge. Therapy is important, especially in the immediate aftermath of the experience.
"But the good majority of children will survive the trauma well in the long run, due to the support of their caregivers," he said.
Getting a child to talk about the experience can be helpful, but "it's a very fine line to walk and a hard one for adults," according to Montefiore's Briggs. "Make sure you are creating an environment and clear message that the child can talk about it."
But adults should be careful not to respond in a "fearful or anxious" way, said Briggs. "Otherwise you are sending him the message, 'Oops, don't go there.'"
How Ethan copes will depend largely on how stable his life has been up until now.
"The strongest predictor of how a child functions after a trauma is how they were functioning before a trauma," said Briggs. "If he was, indeed, doing quite well, and had good coping skills, stability and routine, that's important for a 5-year-old and we hope he will emerge relatively intact. Children are very resilient."
And for now, Ethan's family also seems resilient.
"I was telling some of the family that if I could I would do cartwheels all the way down the road," said his great aunt Cook after learning that boy had survived unharmed.
"I was just ecstatic," she said. "Everything just seemed like it was so much clearer. We had all been walking around in a fog and everybody was just excited. There's no words to put how we felt and how relieved we were."
Officials have not yet provided any further details on the raid, citing the ongoing investigation. Officials say that Ethan is still in the hospital.
Ethan's captor allegedly shot and killed a school bus driver, Albert Poland Jr., 66, last Tuesday and threatened to kill all the children on the bus before taking the boy.
"He said he was going to kill us, going to kill us all," Tarrica Singletary, 14, told ABC News this week.
Dykes had been holed up in his underground bunker with the abducted boy for a week as police tried to negotiate with him through a PVC pipe. Police were careful not to anger Dykes, who was believed to be watching news reports from inside the bunker.
Dykes lived in Florida until two years ago, The Associated Press reported, and has an adult daughter, but the two lost touch years ago, neighbor Michael Creel said. When he returned to Alabama, neighbors say he once beat a dog with a lead pipe and had threatened to shoot children who set foot on his property.