Research and Education for All Children (REACH), Center for Autism Services, Science and Innovation (CASSI™) research program, is dedicated to better understanding autism through research.

Parents who bring their children to CASSI are often approached about participating in research during their visit. This might be a project from within our clinic or one coordinated by REACH.

The decision of whether or not to participate in research can be overwhelming, especially if you're uncertain about what questions to ask or what the terms and phrases related to research mean.

If you've never thought about joining a research project before, the information below will answer many of your questions and help you feel comfortable if you choose to participate in a research study.


Join the largest study of autism ever! SPARK and its wide network of hospitals, universities, and scientists are committed to making new discoveries possible that matter to you.

You hold the power to shape the future of autism research.

Help us spark better futures for all individuals and families affected by autism.

The mission of SPARK is simple. We want to speed up research and advance understanding of autism. We are currently recruiting participants for this groundbreaking initiative, which combines a web-based registry with DNA analysis to accelerate autism research and speed discovery of treatment and supports. 

For additional information, please click the link below. 

SPARK for Autism at Kennedy Krieger

Social Communication Intervention for Toddlers with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Researchers at Kennedy Krieger Institute are studying whether there are differences between in-person and virtually delivered social communication intervention for toddlers with autism spectrum disorder.

Learn More

Why is Research Important?

Research allows scientists to explore ideas about why things happen, how they are related to one another, or whether a particular treatment works. Research findings provide evidence that influence the programs and services offered in schools, clinics and communities.

The Basics of Research:

Why participate in research?

  • It gives you an opportunity to share your experiences and make your voice heard.
  • You can help researchers find answers to important questions that may benefit the education and early intervention community for the long term.
  • You may receive valuable services or evaluations for free through a research study.
  • You may learn more about your child’s development, their strengths and weaknesses, and the best treatments.

Joining a Research Study:

How much time does it take?

Every research study is different and each requires a different amount of time and energy. Some studies require only that you sign a consent form, while other studies will involve hours of testing. Some may follow your family for years, while others may take little to no time at all. It is important to know that research projects come in all shapes and sizes and don't always involve a big commitment on the part of a parent. Even if you only have a few minutes to spare, chances are there are still ways to participate.

What steps are involved in joining?

Not all research studies are the same, but there are a few general steps to joining most research studies:

  • A research study is presented and you are asked whether or not you want to learn more and consider participating.
  • You will review a consent form with a research team member who can explain the study and answer your questions.
  • You choose whether or not to sign the consent form. If you decide to join the study, the next steps depend on what is involved in the study and might involve filling out questionnaires or scheduling an appointment for a study visit.
  • Remember, you can leave the study at any time for any reason.

Frequently Used Terms and Definitions:

  • Consent: In order for researchers to use information from you or your child, you must first give consent or permission. This involves reviewing a consent form with a study team member and providing a signature to agree to join the study.
  • Eligibility Criteria: Requirements that must be met in order to join the study.
  • Exclusion Criteria: Items or traits that will prevent you from participating in the study.
  • Institutional Review Board (IRB): This group reviews research studies and is responsible for protecting the rights and welfare of study participants. All studies must get approval by an IRB before you can even be asked to participate.
  • Principal Investigator (PI): The PI is the person who oversees the study and is responsible for all aspects of the study.
  • Research and Education for All Children (REACH): REACH is the research program at CASSI. The REACH team is dedicated to exploring child development and developing treatments through research.
  • Screening: Some studies require that their participants be screened before they can sign up, to be sure they meet certain requirements. This screening may include evaluations and questionnaires.

Research Checklist:

Before you agree to join a study, be sure to ask yourself these basic questions to decide whether or not to participate. Don't forget to add your own questions at the end of the list.

  • What is the goal of this study?
  • How much time will it take for me to participate in this study?
  • What steps will be taken to protect my privacy and my child’s privacy?
  • Are there any possible risks that come with participating in this study?
  • Are there any possible benefits that come with participating in this study?
  • How will this research help me to understand my child's development?
  • Who do I contact if I have questions?

Other Research Resources: