Akron Police Lt. Mark Farrar spoke to more than 80 first responders at the Cuyahoga Falls Sheraton Suites during an autism workshop Sept. 20.

Lt. Farrar discussed the challenges of responding to autism for both families and first responders.

Farrar is an authority on the subject - not only is he a self-taught expert and recognized educator on autism, but he also has personal experience with his son, Kyle, who has Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism.

Since his son's diagnosis, he's trained thousands of first responders in autism recognition and de-escalation across the state, and has been a keynote speaker in more than 80 presentations.

"Autism is real, and those affected by it have widely varying capabilities when it comes to speech and cognition," said Farrar. "I enjoy training first responders on this subject - not only because it hits home for me personally, but because it informs and equips first responders to provide more effective care and service that those with autism need, especially during difficult moments that require emergency response."

Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability in the U.S., and the prevalence of autism continues to rise. The Centers for Disease Control statistics show that one in every 68 children is affected with some form of autism.

"We were extremely excited to host this presentation because we knew it was an important, interesting and timely subject for first responders and the community," said Dr. Sonny Bare, chief of emergency medicine at Western Reserve Hospital.