Ohio Officer Encourages Autism Training for Responders - News - @ JEMS.com


Ohio Officer Encourages Autism Training for Responders

The reason: Autistic people are seven times as likely as others to come into contact with first responders


 
 

Alan Johnson, THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH | | Monday, May 14, 2012


AKRON, Ohio -- Akron Police Sgt. Mark Farrar knows the facts of autism in his head and the pain of autism in his heart.

With the incidence of autism rising rapidly -- 1 in 88 children (and 1 in 54 boys) are born with some form of it -- law-enforcement agencies are being affected because, Farrar says, the autistic are seven times as likely as others to come into contact with first responders such as police, fire and paramedics. They also are more likely to be crime victims.

"We talk about autism in kids as if they mysteriously disappear when they become adults," Farrar said yesterday at Attorney General Mike DeWine's "Two Days in May" crime-victims conference in the Hyatt Regency. "Those kids are growing up, becoming adults, living in our communities. We can't assume first responders know how to deal with them on their own."

Farrar, 39, who spends half his time patrolling the streets of Akron, has a son Kyle, 5, who has Asperger's syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism. Farrar became a self-taught expert on the subject after his son's autism was diagnosed, and he now trains law-enforcement and other organizations about autism, often on his own time.

Autism is a development disorder that often shows up early in childhood. It is marked by communication and behavioral issues but is not mental retardation.

An audience of 1,000 was spellbound yesterday as Farrar blended the story of his family's struggles raising Kyle and the growing trend for autistic individuals to become victims and sometimes perpetrators of crime. He showed a clip from the Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman movie Rain Man, offering a glimpse of life with autism.

"We have to convince police there's a need for this training, not because I have a son, but because of research and statistics," he said. "As I say in training law enforcement, 'This is coming to a call near you.' "

One of Farrar's gripping stories was about Gertrude Steuernagel, a political-science professor at Kent State University who was stomped to death in 2009 by her autistic son, Sky Walker, then 18. When police arrived at the house, he said, "Mama hurt. Kicking Mama," Farrar said.

Steuernagel, who dealt with her son's erratic and increasingly violent behavior for years, left a message locked in a safe in her bedroom. "This is my fault, not Sky's," she wrote. "I do not want him to be punished for something he was not responsible for."

The court decided that Walker was incompetent. He was not convicted and is in a mental-health facility.

In an interview, Farrar discussed the devastation he and his wife felt when Kyle's behavior problems were diagnosed. As a toddler, Kyle came into his parents' room early every morning, screaming loudly. He was sensitive to changes in light and sound. He had trouble communicating.

With treatment, Kyle's behavior has improved. But Farrar said autism is not something he will outgrow. It will always be with him.

On Farrar's website, www.autismawareness4firstresponders.com, he has information about autism, along with a short video about his son.

"I love Kyle now more than ever," Farrar says at the end. "Every day I am around him, he makes me a better man. ... Kyle is truly a remarkable son who I wouldn't change for the world."



Copyright © 2013 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. Terms and Conditions | Privacy Policy


Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: News, autism

What's Your Take? Comment Now ...

Buyer's Guide Featured Companies

Featured Careers & Jobs in EMS

Get JEMS in Your Inbox

 

Fire EMS Blogs


Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts

 

EMS Airway Clinic

Improving Survival from Cardiac Arrest Using ACD-CPR + ITD

Using active compression-decompression CPR with an ITD has been shown to improve 1-year survival from cardiac arrest by 33%.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

Three Injured in Philadelphia Collapse

Parapet wall falls through roof of store.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

California Firefighters save Man on Flight

Patient was conscious and talking when United flight landed.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Over Half of Seattle Fire Stations Test Positive for MRSA

Surprisingly high results come from test kits based on earlier study.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Hands On February 2015

Here’s a look at this month’s product hands on.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Nightwatch Series Premiere Party

JEMS Editor-in-Chief A.J. Heightman attends the series premiere of A&E's new reality show, "Nightwatch."
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Ottawa Chemical Investigation

Chemicals and suspicious package are probed at two locations
More >


Multimedia Thumb

VividTrac offered by Vivid Medical - EMS Today 2013

VividTrac, affordable high performance video intubation device.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

LMA MAD Nasal™

Needle-free intranasal drug delivery.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

The AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher Conversion Kit - EMS Today 2013

AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher all-hazards preparedness & response tool
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Braun Ambulances' EZ Door Forward

Helps to create a safer ambulance module.
Watch It >


More Product Videos >