More than 3.5 million people in the United States live with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as of 2022, and research indicates this is the fastest-growing developmental disability in the US.


For those unfamiliar with what Autism is, it is a developmental condition that affects how a person communicates and interacts with others. For example, it can show difficulty in communication, understanding social cues, forming relationships, and controlling emotions. The causes of Autism are still largely unknown, but research suggests that genetics and environmental factors may play a role.

One Study group is devoted to diagnosing Autism early and accurately. Early diagnosis allows parents and caregivers to access appropriate supports and services that can help promote the development. In addition, a child diagnosed with Autism earlier can show minimal to no symptoms over time. So the most extensive autism study is here in East Lansing, United States. Once again, the goal is to identify and diagnose suitable children as early as possible to increase their chances for success.

The team of medical professionals wants to collect 50,000 DNA samples from individuals and families who have a child with Autism. These DNA samples will be used to identify the genetic components of Autism, which will then help inform diagnosis and treatment.

The SPARK study in East Lancing

An interview with one lady, Cammie Wollner,   whose daughter was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 3, confirms the urge to discover the root cause of the autistic spectrum disorder. Cammie said, “We are hoping to get to the database.” In other words, they are hoping to partake in the study, and providing their samples to understand more about Autism could provide invaluable information about the condition.

According to Cammie, her daughter Tessie has Autism, but another genetic disease is also affecting her daughter. The disease affects her daughter’s breathing while she sleeps at night. Cammie believes that if Tessie can be part of the Autism study, it might potentially help to check whether the disease is also linked to Autism.

The study’s name is SPARK, and it’s among the most extensive autism study undertaken here in the United States. According to Brooke Ingersoll, a psychology professor -at Michigan University, “Research is needed to make progress in autism, and the more diverse data that we have available, the better off we are in understanding it.”

Holly Lechniak, a worker in the Autism Center at Rush, adds that the research participation is free and that home visits are available. “The more information we can learn and get, the better,” she said. 


Cammie, the mother of Tessie, adds that she will sign up for the study in hopes that it can help her daughter and others with Autism. She says even though she’s not sure if it will help her daughter, she is confident that she can be part of something bigger, and this can benefit everyone who has Autism.

This research is vital to those living with or caring for someone with ASD. Such a study could help provide insights into the causes of Autism, which ultimately could lead to new treatments and an even better quality of life for those affected.

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