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Autism study coming to Mid-Michigan

Posted at 9:40 AM, Aug 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-03 09:40:40-04

A major study that could help find individual treatments for people with autism is coming to Mid-Michigan.

The SPARK" program is a nationwide project aimed at better understanding autism and connecting with the community FOX 47's Alani Letang met a family who is going to be part of it.

Cammie Wollner is a mother of five children, two of whom have autism.

What she wants out of the SPARK program is to help researchers learn more out autism and to help give parents some answers about the long-term challenges.

"Before I had kids with autism I thought it was this scary thing, and there are definitely challenges, we have huge communication challenges. Both of our daughters are amazing people. I wish I could take away some of their challenges but I wouldn't change who they are as people," said Cammie Wollner, a mother who is partaking in SPARK.

It's a busy household, but Cammie always makes time for her children, whether it's dashing off to the next therapy session or participating in a research to advance their understanding of autism.

Cammie found out about the SPARK program from the MSU Autism Lab's Facebook page. She's hoping to help others, by getting her daughters', Tessie and Maggie's, DNA into the system.

"Potentially helping people identify one of the causes for autism," said Cammie.

SPARK has been around for over two years. It takes the saliva of a person with autism and runs it into a database to try and identify genetic "markers" to better understand the disorder.

The number one goal is to get as many people across the county to register and get the community involved.

"And the second goal is to identify genetic profiles in families with autism and use that information to over time build individualized/personal care for people with autism," Dr. Latha Soorya, director of Autism Assesment Research Treatment and Services Center at Rush University. Dr. Soorya is also a clinical psychologist and researcher with SPARK.

Dr. Soorya has been working with the autism community for over 20 years. 
She told Letang research like this is important because autism is unique in each person

"Understanding the genetic profile of people has led to targetted treatments that either modify their genetic conditions or identify behavioral treatments that we know ppl will respond because we understand the mechanics of their biology a little better," said Dr. Sooryah.

The challenges keep Dr. Soorya working in the field.

Dr. Soorya told Letang "we are always learning, and it is such a complex set of presentations at each stage of life."

Cammie hopes to see growth in autism research.

"I'm excited to see what's included in it, it seems like it's a really neat program," said Cammie.

Participants are encouraged to RSVP, although walk-ins are welcomed. Participants will receive up to a $50 Amazon gift code after DNA samples are collected.

Where: MSU Autism Lab, 262 Psychology Road, East Lansing, MI 48824
When: Saturday, August 11th 9:30 AM- 4 PM

SPARK Program