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Stony Brook Joins World’s Largest Autism Study

Clinical site map

STONY BROOK, NY, September 28, 2022 – Autism affects millions of families nationwide. Over the past few years, the Covid-19 pandemic changed the lives and routines of most people, and the challenges of managing life with family members on the autism spectrum only increased. In an effort to further advance scientific understanding of autism, Stony Brook University clinicians and researchers will now be joining a nationwide network called SPARK (Simons Powering Autism Research Knowledge).

Stony Brook University is the latest institutional member of SPARK, which includes more than 30 of the nation’s leading medical schools and autism research centers. SPARK’s research involves recruiting individuals and families affected by autism.

To understand the complexity of autism, large numbers of individuals participating in studies about autism may lead to a better understanding of the causes of autism, informing better treatments, services, and support practices for families. Currently, more than 100,000 people with autism and 175,000 of their family members are participating in SPARK.

Clinical site map
A map of the nation’s wide geographic network of SPARK-affiliated programs researching autism, including at Stony Brook University. Credit: Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

“Joining SPARK opens numerous doors within and beyond Stony Brook on multiple fronts. This partnership provides a direct opportunity for individuals with autism and their families who connect with Stony Brook through any of our clinical, research, or programmatic efforts to benefit from involvement in this groundbreaking project,” says Matthew D. Lerner, PhD, Principal Investigator for Stony Brook, Associate Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry, and Pediatrics, and Research Director of the Stony Brook Autism Initiative at Stony Brook University. “SPARK also provides a direct way for our clinical and research teams to work more closely together to support this population, and it affirms Stony Brook’s place among the top autism clinical and research centers in the country, as well as our commitment to engaging deeply with our community.”

The Stony Brook Autism Initiative is a university-wide effort to join researchers, clinicians, staff, and students across the institution in support of individuals across Long Island on the autism spectrum. It offers community programs and connects with a variety of research opportunities (e.g. the Social Competence & Treatment Lab), clinical services (e.g. the gold standard, multidisciplinary Autism Clinic), and training programs (e.g., the ISLEA program at the School of Professional Development).

“SPARK offers another dimension to our clinical work with families in our efforts to provide the best possible diagnostic services and treatments to individuals with autism,” adds Judith A. Crowell, MD, Clinical Director of the Stony Brook Autism Initiative, and Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University.

Stony Brook’s involvement in SPARK is supported both by a grant from the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI), as well as donations to the Autism Initiative through the Autism Initiative Excellence Fund.

SPARK, a project developed and funded by the Simons Foundation, is the largest autism study ever. For more information or to participate in SPARK at Stony Brook, please visit our webpage.


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