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 ccautismawareness.org.