Autism Research: Information for Families

A smiling child embraces an adult.

Our researchers work with scientists at OHSU and other hospitals and universities to better understand autism. The earlier we identify autism, the better we can help you and your child build on their strengths and live fully.


SPARK collects DNA and other information from autistic people and their families. More than 100,000 autistic people and 175,000 family members have donated to a database to help scientists better understand autism.

OHSU is among more than 30 universities and hospitals taking part in this project. Our researchers used SPARK data to identify 60 genes linked to autism risk, five of them for the first time.

SPARK shares research news, webinars and resources. Families that sign up can get up to $50 in gift card codes.

SPARK began in April 2016 with a grant from the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative.

Contact the SPARK team at OHSU:

Research at OHSU

We do autism research in areas such as:

  • Autism diagnosis
  • Autism therapy
  • Bioengineering, or using other sciences to solve problems in biology
  • Genetics
  • Neuroscience, or the science of the brain and nervous system
  • Animal research

Our researchers have looked into topics such as:

  • How well different ways of evaluating autism work
  • How well people with autism can grip objects
  • Communication differences for autistic children
  • Racial gaps in diagnosing autism
  • Genetic changes that affect the brain
  • Improving autism diagnosis, screening and referrals for Latino patients
  • Diagnosing autism earlier

OHSU researchers are leading two studies on why some children don’t get care for early childhood communication disorders, including autism.

  • A study of more than 100,000 children in five states, including Oregon, will look at differences in access to care because of structural racism and discrimination.
  • A study of eight U.S. health care systems, including OHSU, will look at differences in access to autism care because of language barriers.

For patients

Questions? Call:


OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, seventh floor
700 S.W. Campus Drive
Portland, OR 97239

Child Development and Rehabilitation Center, Eugene
901 E. 18th Ave.
Eugene, OR 97403

Free parking for patients and visitors

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