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In a Different Key
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The stunning history of autism as it has been discovered and felt by parents, children and doctors Nearly seventy-five years ago, Donald Triplett of Forest, Mississippi became the first child diagnosed with autism. In a Different Key tells the extraordinary story of the world his diagnosis created - a riveting human drama that takes us across continents and through some of the great social movements of the twentieth century. The history of autism is, above all, the story of families fighting for a place in the world for their children. It is the story of women like Ruth Sullivan, who rebelled against a medical establishment that blamed "refrigerator mothers" for causing autism, of fathers who pushed scientists to dig harder for treatments, of parents who forced schools to accept their children. But many others played starring roles too: doctors like Leo Kanner, who pioneered our understanding of autism, scientists who sparred over how to treat autism, and those with autism, like Temple Grandin and Ari Ne'eman, who explained their inner worlds and championed a philosophy of 'neurodiversity'. This is also a story of fierce controversy: from the question of whether there is truly an autism 'epidemic', and whether vaccines played a part in it, to scandals involving 'facilitated communication', one of many treatments that have proved to be blind alleys. And there are dark turns too: we learn about experimenters feeding LSD to children with autism, or shocking them with electricity to change their behavior; and the authors reveal, for the first time, that Hans Asperger, discoverer of the syndrome named after him, may have cooperated with the Nazis in sending disabled children to their deaths. By turns intimate and panoramic, In a Different Key takes us on a journey from an era when families were shamed and children were condemned to institutions, to one in which parents and people with autism push not simply for inclusion, but for a new understanding of autism: as difference rather than disability.
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About the Author

John Donvan is a multiple Emmy Award-winning Nightline correspondent with a long career in journalism. Prior to Nightline, he was the chief White House correspondent for ABC News. Caren Zucker is an award-winning veteran television news producer who has worked most extensively with ABC News. She also produced and cowrote a six-part series on autism for PBS in 2011.

Reviews

In a Different Key is almost as much a history of coping with ignorance and uncertainty as it is a voyage of discovery. But even ignorance can be good or bad. And so we have, at least, evolved from locking away people who seem impossibly different to beginning to talk about their different mental wiring with something approaching respect. It is the great achievement of this book to show how this happened in an exciting and poignant way -- David Aaronovitch The Times John Donvan and Caren Zucker manage to remain objective and compassionate throughout... a history book with a compelling narrative BBC Focus This is not a how-to guide or a polemic on neurodiversity. The book probes a difficult subject with intelligence and compassion - and makes you think. The complete absence of hysteria will make it essential reading for many... its insights and quiet wisdom demand our attention, and gratitude -- Amy Bloom Oprah Magazine Fast-paced and far-reaching... this is an important missing piece to the conversation about autism; no one trying to make sense of the spectrum should do so without reading this book -- Andrew Solomon, author of Far from the Tree Donvan and Zucker's generous yet sharp-eyed portraits of men, women, and children - most of them unknown until now - make it stunningly clear that we all have a stake in the story of autism. We come to understand that we are all wired differently, and that how we treat those who are different than most is a telling measure of who we truly are. This is the kind of history that not only informs but enlarges the spirit -- Susan Cain, author of Quiet Donvan and Zucker have taken on a monumental task: to write a comprehensive history of autism. They delve deep into both the science and the politics of autism across time. They tell the story of the extreme treatments that have been tried, such as administering LSD or electric shocks in the 60s, to 'normalize' these children. They uncover the tragic 'mercy killing' of a teenager with autism by his father, and explore the MMR vaccine-causes-autism theory, named by TIME magazine as top of the list of 'great science frauds'. This book will make a remarkable contribution to the history of autism -- Simon Baron-Cohen, Professor of developmental psychopathology, University of Cambridge, author of Zero Degrees of Empathy Sweeping in scope but with intimate personal stories, this is a deeply moving book about the history, science, and human drama of autism. It's also something larger: a fascinating exploration of a social movement that grappled with the mysteries of mind, behaviour, and the relationship between parents and children -- Walter Isaacson, author of The Innovators and Steve Jobs In a Different Key transports the reader back to the earlier days of autism. It is essential reading for anyone who is interested in how society treats those who are different -- Temple Grandin, author of Thinking in Pictures and The Autistic Brain Autism is a shape changer that has continuously resisted being pinned down. This meticulously researched book leads us deeply into the history of autism and brings to life the colourful personalities and conflicting ideas that deepen the fascination of autism -- Uta Frith, Emeritus Professor of Cognitive Development at University College London

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