Baylor, Texas Children's Hospital study people with autism for research

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HOUSTON – Lisa Salom gets upset thinking about the struggle her family went through to get her son Michael diagnosed with autism.

"In order to change the lives of the next generation so that other parents do not have to endure what we've been through, we need people to participate in research," Salom said.

She's specifically talking about research like SPARK, a study from Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital, that's collecting DNA from people with autism to figure out if there's a genetic component to the condition.

To register for the study, click link.

"We think this is going to be a way that really leads us to more personalized medicine for individuals on the spectrum so we can match them up based on a genetic profile, maybe with a treatment that's going to work better for them," Dr. Robin Kochel said.

There are 21 research sites across the country. Dr. Kochel will lead the study locally and said it costs participants nothing but could be very valuable for years to come.

"Families who just may not have access to genetic testing services, whose insurance may not cover it, also by virtue of our connection with our genetics colleagues, we can get them that kind of support and counseling for families who do have a finding," Dr. Kochel said.

Lisa said Michael has been through other time-consuming studies, but with SPARK, "They send you a box, you spit in a cup and send it off in the mail. It is not hard to do, it truly is effortless on a family's part but it's contributing to the next generation," Salom said.

After all, every study before now shaped today's autism therapies and paved the way for Michael, who is almost ready to start working as a computer repairman for a local school district.

"Any activity that we can find that kept him from living in his own world with autism, by making him get out into the community and participate in the community, we're giving him tools that he needs for the rest of his life," Salom said.

Families with a loved one on the spectrum of all ages are invited to participate in the SPARK On-site Registration Event at the Houston Museum of Natural Science on April 29, from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.

 Families interested in participating in the SPARK event need to RSVP to reserve their time slot. For information on how to RSVP, text "SPARK" to 555-888.

Those who RSVP to attend the SPARK Event may be eligible for discounted tickets to the HMNS the day of the event.