Copper Country Autism Awareness "Bringing awareness to the issues facing those living with autism spectrum disorders"
Copper Country Autism Awareness"Bringing awareness to the issues facing those living with autism spectrum disorders"




Raising autism awareness

September 17, 2012
By KURT HAUGLIE - DMG writer (khauglie@mininggazette.comThe Daily Mining Gazette

HOUGHTON - Chrissy Harkola appreciated having the first Copper Country Autism Awareness Family Fun Day Saturday for her 5-year-old son, Alex.

"I thought it was wonderful," she said. "Kids with autism don't get out a lot."

Harkola said Alex, who was diagnosed with autism when he was 2 years old, was having a good time playing games with his 3-year-old brother, Langdon, in the Houghton Elementary School gymnasium.

Article Photos

Kurt Hauglie/Daily Mining Gazette
Chrissy Harkola of Tamarack City assists her 5-year-old son, Alex, as he works his way up a climbing wall Saturday at the Houghton Elementary School gymnasium during the first Copper Country Autism Awareness Family Fun Day. The event was intended as a way to give parents and their autistic children a way to have fun without worrying about possible emotional outbursts.


Although Alex can have occasional "meltdowns" in public, Harkola said for the most part that's not a problem.

"He tolerates crowds well," she said.

Kathe Lanctot, one of the founders of Copper Country Autism Awareness, said she was very pleased with the number of people attending the inaugural Family Fun Day.

"It's our dream come true," she said. "We're happy with the turnout."

Also at the Family Fun Day was Dr. Bonnie Hafeman, who was providing information about the various forms of the condition.

There are four conditions on the autism spectrum, Hafeman said, including Asperger's Syndrome, which is the mildest form, Rett Syndrome, Autistic Disorder and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, which is rare with only 2 per 100,000 children developing it. With CDD, a child develops normally until 3 or 4 years old, then loses speech, motor skills and other developmental features.

Autism is not retardation, Hafeman said, but an autistic child can also be developmentally challenged.

There are also autism look-alike disorders, which aren't autism, Hafeman said.

Autism isn't curable and doesn't go away on its own, so there are many adults with the condition, also.

"Most of them are leading independent lives," she said.

Hafeman was also giving information on diet and autism, particularly establishing a gluten- and casein-free diet for their children. Those two components have been shown to affect the opioid receptors in the brain, causing behavioral problems in some children.

"A lot of parents are using (diet) for behavior control," she said. "It won't cure autism, but it will provide better behavior."

Lanctot said the parents attending the event seemed to be enjoying it.

"We've had nothing but exceptional comments," she said.


A day for autism awareness

September 12, 2012
By KURT HAUGLIE - DMG writer (khauglie@mininggazette.comThe Daily Mining Gazette

HOUGHTON - There are autistic children in the Copper Country, and a local support group wants the parents of those children to know there's help for dealing with the issues of the condition.

Kathe Lanctot, founder of Copper Country Autism Awareness, said the group's first Family Fun Day will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Houghton Elementary School gymnasium.

"The idea is to have events for children with autism and their families," she said.

The Family Fun Day is intended for families from Baraga, Houghton and Keweenaw counties and surrounding areas, Lanctot said. Parents who think their children may have autism but haven't been diagnosed, yet, are encouraged to come.

Lanctot said one of the symptoms of autism is acting out, so some parents aren't comfortable taking their children to public events.

"Children may have a meltdown," she said.

The Family Fun Day, which is free and just for autistic children and their families, is intended to offer a place where parents can feel comfortable with their children, Lanctot said.

"They're all in the same boat," she said. "Nobody is going to look at them."

Lanctot said CCAA was started by herself and three other grandparents of autistic children, including her grandson, Charlie.

"He was our inspiration," she said.

Charlie lives with his parents in Florida, Lanctot said, and after being with him there, she would come back to the Upper Peninsula and realize there was little discussion about autism.

One in 80 children has autism, Lanctot said, including one in 54 boys and one in 252 girls.

At the event Saturday, Lanctot said there will be games, an art wall children can draw on, bouncy houses, a climbing wall and face painting.

Dr. Bonnie Hafeman, who diagnoses autism, will be available to answer questions and talk about a gluten-free diet.

"A lot of people feel diet is important (for treating autism)," Lanctot said.

Staff from the Copper Country Intermediate School District will run the events, Lanctot said. A police officer will also be present for fingerprinting children and creating IDs for them, if parents choose to do so.

Lanctot said parents will be given a short, postage-paid questionnaire to take open with questions about what kinds of services they would like for their children.

The sponsors of the Family Fun Day are Keweenaw Health Foundation and the Copper Country Elks, Lanctot said. Many local businesses have made donations, also.

Lanctot said there is no set membership for Copper Country Autism Awareness, yet.

"We're working on membership," she said. "It's open to the public."

For more information about CCAA, go online to


Thanks to Swick Home Services of Marquette for the billboard located at the intersection of White St. and US-41 in Hancock

Grandparents start autism group in Keweenaw by Gabrielle Mays TV6 News (Upper Michigan's Source)

Raising autism awareness

Local group looking to help local families

July 5, 2012
By Zach Kukkonen (zkukkonen@mininggazette.comThe Daily Mining Gazette

HUBBELL - Autism is a tough disorder for parents and children alike to deal with, so a group of grandparents who have been touched by autism are looking to help local families.

Kathe Lanctot and Jack Dugdale, and Marion and Mike Gilles, all of whom are grandparents to an autistic child, have formed Copper Country Autism Awareness, a group to provide support for Copper Country families affected by autism.

The group, which is two years in the making, aims to aid local families as well as coordinate the resources available in the area.

Article Photos

Zach Kukkonen/Daily Mining Gazette



"We're really still in the organizational stage, but we have an event planned," Dugdale said. "We're going to do a family fun day Sept. 15."

The family fun day is planned to help parents and children have a joyful experience where they don't have to worry as much about autism, and will likely be held at one of the Houghton schools.

"It's hard for these kids and their parents to get out and do the kinds of things children normally do, knowing the experience we have with our grandchild," Mike Gilles said.

As the event draws nearer, CCAA is also looking for volunteers.

"We would love to have high school kids come in and help with fun day," Lanctot said.

Following the family fun day, the group is also planning a Parents Day, which would involve a panel that can provide local families with information.

"This panel we'd like to put together, it would probably be all local people that are available, whether it be nutritionists or day care workers," Lanctot said. "We'd also like parents that maybe have an older autistic child that have been through the stages that parents with younger children have yet to deal with."

The CCAA meets frequently, and its next meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. July 18 in Portage Health's conference rooms one and two. The meeting is open to anyone interested in helping out local families with autism, especially younger people.

"We feel like this is really affecting this younger generation, so it's our kids and grandkids this is affecting," Marion Gilles said. "They should be the ones that should really get involved with this, because it's their lives."

The group is also trying to get more parents involved.

"We need parents of autistic children because they know what their needs are," Lanctot said. "We really want to get involved with the parents so we can help and know what they need and what they want.

"We feel like we have the time to make a lot of the phone calls and try to organize things they may need or want."

An endowment has been started by the four with the Keweenaw Community Foundation to help fund the cause.

"We put together a small endowment to get things started," Dugdale said. "Now we're looking for additional support to support things like our fun day."

To contact the KCF to donate, visit

With autism affecting approximately one in 88 children, according to the National Autism Association, the group's primary aim is to simply inform the public and help coordinate local autism efforts.

"Our main goal is to put together resource material to further educate parents," Dugdale said. "We'd like to have a website where they can find all this information, and we're going to print up a brochure that will have all the information and resources available."

For more information about Copper Country Autism Awareness, visit the group's Facebook page or email

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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. 


Have a plan if your child wanders off!



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