Kochel Lab for Clinical Autism Research

Participating in SPARK


What's Involved


Participation in SPARK is easy and can be done entirely online and from home, allowing families and individuals from all over the United States to join. Register online, provide a saliva DNA sample with a collection kit that is shipped directly to your home, and earn up to $50 for your efforts when all of your family's saliva kits are returned. Both biological parents are invited and encouraged to participate in SPARK, as this greatly improves the quality of our genetic analyses. However, anyone with autism can participate, even if their biological parents are not available.

By using our Texas Children's Hospital (in affiliation with Baylor College of Medicine) registration link (SPARKforAutism.org/TexasChildrens), your family will be directly connected to our research team, who can support you throughout your SPARK participation and help connect you with additional opportunities and resources. Together, we can help SPARK a better future for all individuals and families affected by autism.

For individuals in the Houston area:
Register in person at the Texas Children's Hospital Autism Center by contacting Andrea Simon, andrea.simon@bcm.edu, (832) 824-3624.

Join SPARK now

Why Participate in SPARK?

  • You will receive updates on the latest research about autism and the SPARK project as we learn from families participating.
  • You may be invited to participate in other projects through the SPARK Research Match. Learn more about Research Match in our FAQ section.
  • 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.
  • 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. Learn more about return of genetic results in our FAQ section.
  • Individuals with autism will receive gift cards valued at up to a total of $50 for participation.
Join SPARK now

SPARK Saliva Collection

Media Component

The best way for us to obtain sufficient quantities of DNA for our analysis is through a saliva sample. Saliva samples offer a convenient method for DNA sample collection as compared to other sources of DNA (e.g., tissue collected via a cheek swab, blood). Saliva collection is a common collection method for research ranging from large scientific studies or even a single personalized medicine test.

The value of this study depends on having DNA from the person with autism and DNA from both of his or her biological parents when possible. Having DNA from the biological siblings also increases the quality of genetic analyses that we are able to perform. We are more likely to discover information about an individual’s autism with the participation of the biological parents and biological siblings.