In A Different Key

In A Different Key

The Story of Autism

Book - 2016
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Finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction

An extraordinary narrative history of autism: the riveting story of parents fighting for their children 's civil rights; of doctors struggling to define autism; of ingenuity, self-advocacy, and profound social change.

Nearly seventy-five years ago, Donald Triplett of Forest, Mississippi, became the first child diagnosed with autism. Beginning with his family's odyssey, In a Different Key tells the extraordinary story of this often misunderstood condition, and of the civil rights battles waged by the families of those who have it. Unfolding over decades, it is a beautifully rendered history of ordinary people determined to secure a place in the world for those with autism--by liberating children from dank institutions, campaigning for their right to go to school, challenging expert opinion on what it means to have autism, and persuading society to accept those who are different. 

It is the story of women like Ruth Sullivan, who rebelled against a medical establishment that blamed cold and rejecting "refrigerator mothers" for causing autism; and of fathers who pushed scientists to dig harder for treatments. Many others played starring roles too: doctors like Leo Kanner, who pioneered our understanding of autism; lawyers like Tom Gilhool, who took the families' battle for education to the courtroom; scientists who sparred over how to treat autism; and those with autism, like Temple Grandin, Alex Plank, and Ari Ne'eman, who explained their inner worlds and championed the philosophy of neurodiversity.

This is also a story of fierce controversies--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; to stark disagreements about whether scientists should pursue a cure for autism. There are dark turns too: we learn about experimenters feeding LSD to children with autism, or shocking them with electricity to change their behavi∨ and the authors reveal compelling evidence that Hans Asperger, discoverer of the syndrome named after him, participated in the Nazi program that consigned disabled children to death.

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 a cadre of people with autism push not simply for inclusion, but for a new understanding of autism: as difference rather than disability.
Publisher: New York : Crown Publishers, [2016]
Edition: First edition.
Copyright Date: ♭2016
ISBN: 9780307985675
Characteristics: xiv, 670 pages
Additional Contributors: Zucker, Caren (Caren Brenda) 1961-

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AL_ANNAL Nov 29, 2016

A comprehensive history of autism including the role of the medical community in defining and understanding the condition - the desperation, love, and extreme devotion of individual families, and the power of advocacy groups. Nice details included - 3 of the 4 Beatles spent hours playing with children at one of the first schools for autistic children in the UK. As part of the autism community I can highly recommend this book! I think everyone can probably appreciate this sentence that comes near the end "...having autism...represents but one more wrinkle in the fabric of humanity, and no one among us is living a life 'unwrinkled.'

c
ctkvlk
Sep 10, 2016

If you know anyone with autism, I highly recommend this book. It traces the history of the condition, and the vast spectrum and different viewpoints in a very neutral fashion. Very helpful and fascinating.

SquamishLibraryStaff Aug 25, 2016

This is my favorite non-fiction read of the year so far. It tells the story of autism and reveals some of the controversies and difficulties in defining this condition. The book discusses the changing boundaries for diagnosing autism throughout the last century and how this is one of the reasons why it has been such an elusive condition to diagnose. Some parts of the book were emotional and the ways in which children diagnosed with autism have been treated and viewed throughout history were upsetting and disturbing. Reading about the autism advocacy movements started by parents was heartening and revealed the power of the advocacy groups to get exposure for a little known disorder called autism. Well written and informative.

m
mighty_mom
Jul 22, 2016

Very big book but well written. Would be better titled "The History of Autism." Recommended, if only for all the things you'll learn.

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