Kochel Lab for Clinical Autism Research

SPARK for Autism


What is SPARK for Autism?


SPARK is an online research study that will be the largest ever autism study.

Sponsored by SFARI, SPARK will collect information and DNA for genetic analysis from 50,000 individuals with autism —and their families —to advance our understanding of the causes, treatments, and supports for individuals and their families. Together with these families, SPARK will help answer the questions we all have about ASD.


Why Participate in SPARK?


Today we simply don’t know enough about autism.

As autism is a spectrum, researchers need many people with autism to participate in all types of research. Until now, only a small number of individuals and families affected by autism have ever participated in research. SPARK wants to invite the entire autism community to dramatically expand its participation.

SPARK will provide researchers with medical and genetic information from tens of thousands of individuals and families affected by autism. These data will power important new research that aims to advance the understanding of autism and provide meaningful information and resources to participants. Visit the SPARK website to learn more about what's involved.


What's Involved?


Families can participate in SPARK entirely online and from home, complete the following steps.

  1. Visit SPARKforAutism.org/TexasChildrens to learn more.
  2. When you're ready, click "Join Now" to begin your registration (20-30 minutes). You'll be asked to invite other eligible family members, if they're available.
  3. You'll receive a SPARK saliva collection kit in the mail to provide a DNA sample. Complete your samples and return it to it SPARK for a DNA analysis. If SPARK finds anything during the analysis, we'll let you know!
  4. Check your SPARK dashboard to stay up-to-date on future tasks. You'll also be invited to join other studies for which you may qualify.
Register for SPARK

What Does SPARK Give Back?

  • Receive updates on the latest research about autism and the SPARK project as more is learned from participating families.
  • Participate in other projects through the SPARK Research Match. Learn more about Research Match in our FAQ section.
  • Gain access to experts will arm you with information to help address daily situations. This information is shared in the "Discover" section of the SPARK website, and includes monthly webinars, articles, and other resources.
  • Discover results from the analysis of your or your family's DNA, in the event that you opt to receive this information, and a genetic cause for autism is identified for your family. Learn more about return of genetic results in our FAQ section.
  • Individuals with autism will receive gift cards valued at up to $50 for participation.
Media Component
Shannon with family, from TCH blog story. Permission to use.

"We elected to participate in SPARK because it means we are contributing to something bigger – our journey as a family with an AUsome kiddo will continue, and I hope we can continue learning from other families, helping other families and sharing this journey together."

- Shannon, parent participating in SPARK


Baylor and Texas Children's Join the SPARK Study


Baylor College of Medicine (in affiliation with Texas Children's Hospital) is one of a select group of more than 30 research institutions across the nation chosen by the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative to assist with recruitment for a new research study called SPARK, which stands for the Simons Foundation Powering Autism Research for Knowledge. Selection as a clinical site for SPARK underscores Baylor's history with previous SFARI projects, as well as our strength in autism and genetics research. In Texas, the SPARK effort is led by Dr. Robin Kochel, Ph.D, associate professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, and associate director for research at the Texas Children's Hospital Autism Center.

Read about SPARK in the news
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