Join SPARK to Support Research

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The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Autism Society of North Carolina (ASNC) are excited to announce SPARK, a new genetics research project aimed at learning more about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). We invite the North Carolina autism community to join the UNC SPARK cohort to move autism research forward.

SPARK’s mission is to speed up research and advance the understanding of the causes and treatments of autism. SPARK will be the nation’s largest autism study to date. UNC-Chapel Hill is one of 21 SPARK partners around the nation, and it is the only SPARK clinical partner in North Carolina.

The SPARK team hopes to learn more about autism through information provided by families (such as behavioral surveys and family history information) as well as through DNA analysis of saliva samples from individuals with ASD and their biological parents. UNC’s goal is to get thousands of families in North Carolina involved in SPARK.

Registration for SPARK is simple and is done entirely online. SPARK will send DNA collection kits to your home along with prepaid mailers so you can return saliva samples to the lab at no charge.

Not everyone in SPARK will have changes in genes known to be associated with autism. But you can decide whether you would like to know about any genetic changes that SPARK may find. If there are genetics results that can be returned to you, SPARK will work with you and your health-care provider to provide that information.

Hundreds of North Carolina families have already participated in SPARK and are excited to be a part of such an important and large-scale project. Families have told us that not only do they enjoy participating as a family, but that “knowing that [they] could be a part of something bigger to help others” was important for them.

Other families hope that SPARK may ultimately lead to a greater acceptance of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

SPARK is open to anyone with a professional diagnosis of ASD and his/her biological parents and siblings.

If you or someone you know may be interested or has any questions, please email UNC SPARK at SparkForAutism@unc.edu or call Corrie Walston, UNC SPARK Project Coordinator, at 919-966-6795.

You can also visit https://www.sparkforautism.org/UNC to learn more and register. Together, we can help spark a better future for all individuals and families affected by autism.

To learn more about autism research at UNC, please visit www.cidd.unc.edu/registry/news.

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