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The Emerge Center SPARK for Autism Research

Deanna Whittle is the CEO of The Emerge Center in Baton Rouge and the Principal Investigator of SPARK at Emerge.

What is SPARK?

SPARK is an online research partnership with the mission of speeding up research and advancing understanding of autism. Individuals of all ages diagnosed with autism as well as their family members are invited to join SPARK! By building a community of tens of thousands of individuals with autism and their biological family members, SPARK is the largest autism research project to date.

Emerge is partnering with Geisinger in Pennsylvania to recruit individuals with autism and their families to participate in SPARK. Want to learn more? Informational videos and frequently asked questions can be found on The Emerge Center’s SPARK website.

Why should I join SPARK?

By joining SPARK, you’re helping accelerate research to find both causes and treatments for autism. You will also have access to updates on the latest autism research through the Simons Foundation. There is no cost to participate and once registration is complete, families are sent gift cards valued up to $50.

How do I join SPARK?

Registration for SPARK takes about 20 to 30 minutes and is done entirely online! Log on and click “JOIN SPARK”. You’ll be asked to create an account where you’re able to consent to share family and medical history information. Genetic information is also collected through a saliva kit that is sent directly to your home. Saliva samples are collected from the person diagnosed with autism as well as their biological parents, if available. If you have questions along the way, reach out to the team at Emerge by emailing or by calling 225-663-6936.

A Parent’s Perspective:  Keya, Mason’s mom

“As a mother, I do all I can to give my son, Mason, a good life. He was diagnosed with autism at two, and ever since then, I have been trying to learn everything I possibly can about autism. 

Not long ago, I found out about SPARK and I am so grateful for what SPARK is doing! I have all the faith in the world we will get answers. I just want to say thank you SPARK and I stand with you on this journey to get answers.” – Keya

Together we can improve lives by helping to speed up autism research!