Copper Country Autism Awareness Copper Country Autism Awareness


You can support us through the Keweenaw Community Foundation. Click on our FINANCIAL SUPPORT tab and scroll to the bottom of the page for directions.


The Keweenaw Community Foundation administers a number of community funds.  Established in 1994, the mission of the Foundation is to promote philanthropy, develop and manage permanent endowments from a broad range of donors, and award charitable grants that enhance quality of life in the Keweenaw.

Family Support Subsidy offered through the Michigan Department of Community Health

Click on the AUTISM INFORMATION tab above for more information. 

Kiwanis iPad Project


The Wisconsin/Upper Michigan Kiwanis iPad projects goal is to get iPads to as many children on the autism disorder spectrum as possible.  If you would like to support this project or if you feel that your child could benefit from this program, please check out the website. 


Have a plan if your child wanders off!




"Bringing awareness to the issues of those living with autism spectrum disorders"

Click on the "Resources" tab or the "Autism Information" tab above for access to valuable resource information as well as some of the most recent information on Autism.





Researchers say they’ve found clear and direct evidence that autism begins during prenatal brain development. Video courtesy UC-San Diego Health System. 


A new study provides physical evidence that autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has roots in prenatal development. The research, supported in part by Autism Speaks, appears online in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The researchers studied the donated post-mortem brain tissue of 11 children who had been diagnosed with autism and of 11 unaffected children. In 10 out of the 11 ASD cases, they found recurring patches of abnormal development in layers of the cerebral cortex that form during prenatal development. By contrast, they found the patches in just 1 of the 11 children unaffected by autism.

"The finding that these defects occur in patches rather than across the entirety of cortex gives hope as well as insight," says senior author Eric Courchesne, of the University of California, San Diego. Early intervention therapies for autism may help children’s brains “rewire” to circumvent the defective patches, Dr. Courchesne proposes. Further research may advance understanding of how to best foster such improvement.

“This study is a prime example of how precious tissue donations, technological advances in neuroscience tools and a lot of hard work by talented researchers can shine new light onto the biological roots of autism,” comments Dan Smith, Autism Speaks senior director of discovery neuroscience. “Numerous brain imaging studies have revealed that ASD can affect how the brain functions. But this study takes us to a new level by homing in on early life changes in the brain’s fundamental building blocks.” Dr. Smith was not directly involved in the research.

The physical evidence of early brain changes also backs a growing body of research linking increased risk for autism to genetically controlled processes and environmental influences that affect prenatal brain development.

A unique pattern of prenatal changes
"The most surprising finding was the similar early developmental pathology across nearly all of the autistic brains," says co-author Ed Lein, “especially given the diversity of symptoms in those with autism, as well as the extremely complex genetics behind the disorder.”

The team found abnormal patches across the brain’s frontal cortex and temporal cortex. The frontal cortex is associated with complex communication and social abilities. The temporal cortex is associated with language.

By contrast, the researchers found no abnormalities in the visual cortex. They note that visual perception tends to be unimpaired – sometimes even heightened – in individuals with autism.

Three-D reconstruction of a patch defect (dashed circle) found scattered through certain prenatally formed layers of brain tissue from children affected by autism.The study also produced a three-dimensional brain model of the patches that failed to develop the normal cell-layering pattern. (See image at right.)

During early brain development, each cortical layer develops a specific brain-cell type with specific patterns of connectivity that perform unique roles in processing information, Dr. Courchesne explains. In the process, each brain-cell type and tissue layer acquires a distinct genetic signature. The researchers used these genetic markers – and their absence – to build their 3-D model of normally developing and abnormally developing brain layers.

The donated brain tissue making this study possible came, in part, from the Autism Speaks Autism Tissue Program. The program is currently becoming part of a new collaborative tissue bank called BrainNet.

“It’s so important to emphasize the critical role of donated brain tissue in enabling researchers to find answers to questions about brain development,” says Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer Rob Ring. “Tissue-based research like this can happen only when families make the ultimate donation in the face of tragedy. Through their generosity, we can help ensure that these resources remain available for breakthrough research like this.”

Autism Speaks is currently funding follow-up research on the team’s discoveries through a Meixner Postdoctoral Fellowship in Translational Research for Haim Bellinson, at the University of California, San Francisco. The study published today was supported by a research grant for Dr. Courchesne from Autism Speaks, as well as funding from the Simons Foundation, the Peter Emch Family Foundation, the Thursday Club Juniors, the UCSD Autism Center of Excellence and the Allen Institute for Brain Science.

Update: Read our related Q&A with Autism Speaks neuroscientist Dan Smith here.


Our second annual Family Fun Day was a huge success.  Thank you Copper Country Elks Lodge 404 for partnering with us to sponsor this community event.  Thank you Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital for your support, both financial as well as other support, thank you Swick Home Services for providing us the wonderful billboard for the second year, and the financial support and to all the wonderful volunteers, we certainly could not have done it without your help.  A huge thank you to the Houghton Portage Schools for the use of their wonderful facility at Houghton Elementary.  Thank you Dave Rheault for donating the use of two of your bouncy houses, all your tables and all the support that you consistently provide us.


Thank you to the Finlandia Hockey team whose volunteers helped with set up and clean up, staffing the climbing wall and some of the games, the Calumet High School and the Houghton High School Robotics Clubs who provided a large contingent of volunteers and the countless individual volunteers.


It certainly meant a lot to the 36 children from 26 families who attended.  We had two families all the way from Iron Mountain, a family from Covington and virtually all the communities of the Copper Country.  It was a lot of hard work for all, but it definitely was a labor of love.  It was so great to see the kids have so much fun. 



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Parents of children with autism are not looking for sympathy, but hope for understanding.  The next time you see a child "misbehaving" in Walmart or the super market, this may not be a "bad" child or a "bad" parent, but it just may be a child with autism who has had a "meltdown" because of over stimulation caused by the number of people, the lights, the noise or all of these things that can be so overwhelming to a child with autism.  Don't judge, don't feel sorry, just be understanding!


Persons with autism may possess the following characteristics in various combinations and in varying degrees of severity.  

  • Inappropriate laughing/giggling
  • No real fear of dangers
  • Apparent insensitivity to pain
  • May not want cuddling
  • May avoid eye contact
  • May prefer to be alone
  • Difficulty in expressing needs
  • Inappropriate attachments to objects
  • Insistence of sameness
  • Echoes words/phrases
  • Spins objects or self 
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