Nonfiction Review — In A Different Key: The Story of Autism by John Donvan and Caren Zucker

In A Different Key:  The Story of Autism

By John Donvan and Caren Zucker

4 out of 5 Stars

Autism is something that I have a strong interest in, mainly because my son is on the spectrum (high-functioning Asperger’s).  When I came across this book at a local booksale, I knew I had to read it, and it did not disappoint.

Autism is a relatively “new” disorder in terms of having a name and diagnosis.  The authors take us back to the 1930’s, when a young boy name Donald became the first child to be officially diagnosed with autism.  From this simple beginning, the reader is taken through the decades, learning the stories of family struggles, medical experiments, research, and controversies.

Many of the family stories are heartbreaking.  Parents who were looking for help from the medical community were often ignored or blamed for their child’s condition.  Children were often institutionalized or subjected to the latest medical experiments.

But from the parental pain and frustration came the call for change and funding for more research and support.  The stories of parents who fought for their autistic children’s health and education are truly inspiring.

The authors also highlight several physicians and researchers who played key roles in the defining and treatment of autism, from Bruno Bettelheim and his parent-blaming to Hans Asperger and his acknowledgement of different levels of autism.

I did start to feel a bit of disconnect in the last few chapters, something I can’t quite put my finger on.  There was also a bit of repetitiveness that became a distraction at times.  Overall, though, In A Different Key is highly readable and informative, as well as inspiring.  Highly recommend.


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