The Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities at UNC
The Carolina Institute includes:

Research Participant Registry Core


Welcome to SPARK at UNC
Join the UNC SPARK team!

What is SPARK?

  • A landmark research partnership between the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI), UNC and 24 other clinical and research institutions across the US
  • A free, online study whose goal is to speed up autism research and learn more about the causes and treatments of autism
  • The goal of SPARK is to involve 50,000 people with autism and their biological family members
  • Families are asked to share basic information about medical and family history and can choose to submit saliva sample (saliva kits mailed to home)

How to get involved in SPARK at UNC

  • Read more and register at
  • Consent to share information about yourself and/or your child with autism and agree to be re-contacted for future studies (no obligation to participate)
  • Share family history, behavioral and medical information
  • Consent to provide a saliva sample and request the saliva collection kit (kits mailed to you with prepaid mailer)
  • Complete online surveys

Who can participate in SPARK?

  • Children and adults with a professional diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder
  • Biological parents and full siblings of the individual with autism spectrum disorder

SPARK Webinars for Families

UNC SPARK invites you to attend a FREE webinar entitled “Look to Sleep: An Unexplored Window into Neurodevelopment.”

This webinar will take place on Tuesday, June 26 from 12-1 pm EDT. In this webinar, Ashura Buckley, M.D. will cover the following topics:

• Basic neurobiology of the sleep/wake cycle

• Types of sleep problems in people with autism

• Working theories of causes

• Current approaches and evidence

• Where to go from here

Ashura Buckley, M.D. is a pediatric neurologist and sleep medicine research physician at the Intramural Research Program at the National Institutes of Health. Buckley’s research focuses on the role of sleep in shaping the developing brain, with a focus on abnormal sleep neurophysiology in severe forms of autism, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, depression and other serious neurodevelopmental conditions. The ultimate goal of her research is to show underlying problems in sleep-mediated neurotransmission early in the course of neurodevelopment, in the hopes of finding potential treatment targets.

For more information and to register for the webinar, please go to the registration page here: Look to Sleep: An Unexplored Window Into Neurodevelopment

What families are saying about SPARK

“It was easy to do and we enjoyed standing around the kitchen, our whole family spitting into the tubes! Just knowing that we could be a part of something bigger to help others is important to us.”

“Knowing the origins of autism might help develop better treatments and supports, which would improve the daily lives of people with autism. Also, if SPARK helps us demonstrate that autism has genetic origins, that is one step along the way to true autism acceptance.”

“There is a lot of conflicting information about what causes autism and how best to treat it. We feel we owe it to our son as well as to the many other families who have children with autism to find real answers through the best scientific research available."

Bringing Together
Families & Researchers

For Information about SPARK,
please contact

UNC SPARK Project Coordinator:

Corrie Walston, MS

Thank you for your interest in research at UNC.

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