Is your family touched by autism? Consider participating in the nationwide research project — SPARK (Simons Foundation Powering Autism Research for Knowledge) — aimed at speeding up and advancing research and understanding about the disorder in order to improve lives. This major online research initiative brings in medical partners from around the country to help facilitate the endeavor. Vanderbilt Kennedy Center is one of 20+ leading centers and medical schools in the nation to partner with SPARK to gather medical and genetic information from individuals and families affected by autism. “Families have been desperate for science to provide better answers about the disorder,” said Zachary Warren, Ph. D., an associate professor of pediatrics, psychiatry and special education and executive director of the Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders (TRIAD) at Vanderbilt. “Unfortunately, the pace of discovery regarding the causes and novel treatments has been too slow. SPARK represents a bold attempt to radically advance our fundamental understanding of autism. There has been nothing like this attempted on this scale to date." Vanderbilt and other SPARK partners will bring in numerous participants to SPARK; parents can sign up on their own as well. Joining SPARK means signing up, giving consent and providing a saliva sample. Participation is free.  More than 50,000 participants are sought across the country.