By John Donvan and Caren Zucker
Seventy-five years ago a young boy named Donald Triplett from Forest, Mississippi was the first diagnosed case of autism. Donvan and Zucker begin the story of autism from the very beginning in Mississippi with a most engaging narrative style, telling the story of many other families like the Tripletts who freed their children from institutions, fought for their rights as parents and the rights of their children to go to school.
In a Different Key also shines a light on the doctors like Leo Kanner who went against the grain of the medical establishment, fighting for autism treatment instead of blaming the parents. Lawyers also went to battle to bring autistic children back into the classroom. The stories of Temple Grandin and others who have championed neurodiversity are also shared.
The story of autism is also one of controversy. The authors address questions of whether there is actually an autism epidemic; whether vaccines have played a role in it; or whether a cure should even be pursued. In a Different Key also documents the darker side of the history of autism when experimenters employed cruel treatments on children.
Zucker and Donvan have written a comprehensive, fascinating story of autism. In a Different Key is a page-turning account of our time, for our families, our culture and our society. Ultimately, this is a story of love for those who are different, written in the hope that we all may realize that we’re all in this together.
Reviewed by Lisa Newman