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Genetic Analysis FAQ

Genetic Analysis FAQ

  • What genes are being analyzed as a part of SPARK?
    The SPARK gene list can be found here.
  • There is no history of autism in our family. How can genetic analysis help me understand my or my child’s diagnosis?
    Autism spectrum disorder can result from many different genetic changes. In some cases, these changes do run in the family and are inherited. In many other cases they are not inherited from the parents, but start new in the child.
  • How can genetic changes be unique to the child, rather than passed down by a parent?
    Scientists have discovered so-called “de novo” mutations, which occur for the first time in a parent’s sperm or egg or in the developing embryo. Since these mutations occur for the first time in the sperm or egg, the parent is not affected. The effect of the mutation is only in the child.
  • Will genetic analysis definitively identify the source of my or my child’s autism?
    The analysis performed by SPARK researchers may or may not identify a genetic mutation that is the major cause of your or your child’s autism. Autism is not only caused by genes, so not everyone will have a genetic cause of autism. In addition, over time we will learn more about the genetic causes of autism, so we anticipate that we will be more and more successful at identifying the genetic causes of autism.
  • Will we find out if a genetic cause is identified?
    We are not sure how long the DNA analysis process will take, but it will be at least several months or may often be longer. We may contact you periodically to give you an update that your sample was analyzed.
  • Will anything change if a genetic cause is identified?
    Obtaining a specific genetic diagnosis could help you connect with other individuals or families with the same diagnosis. It may also help you to participate in scientific research and clinical trials for new treatments specific to your or your child’s genetic results. Having a genetic diagnosis may help you or other family members determine whether you or they are at increased risk to have a child with autism.    
  • If a genetic cause is determined, how will my health insurance coverage be affected?
    With the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), it is against the law for your health insurance coverage to change on the basis of a genetic analysis alone. 
  • Will this genetic analysis identify a child’s biological father or mother?
    If saliva samples are submitted from 3 individuals reporting to be a biological family, the genetic analysis that we will perform can identify whether the samples submitted are from the person’s biological parents. If you participate and we determine that an individual reporting to be a biological parent is not, we will not reveal this information to you or anyone else.
  • Why do you need saliva from my entire family?
    The value of this study depends on having DNA from the person with autism and DNA from both of his or her biological parents. Having DNA from the biological siblings also increases the quality of genetic analyses that we are able to perform. We are more likely to discover information about an individual’s autism with the participation of the biological parents and biological siblings.