In a Different Key – Interview with John Donvan and Caren Zucker

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In Autism Talk TV Ep. 26, I speak with authors John Donvan and Caren Zucker about their bestselling book on the history of autism, In a Different Key: The Story of Autism.  In addition to being authors, Donvan and Zucker have worked for ABC News, where Donvan is an Emmy award winning correspondent and Zucker is a Peabody award winning producer.

We discuss the inspirational parts of their book as well as the troubling periods of autism history and the shocking discoveries they made about Hans Asperger. We also talk about LSD experiments involving autistics.  Their book is extensive and covers the politics and history of autism in over 500 pages. It even includes a chapter about me, your favorite autism webmaster and tv personality, Alex Plank.

Additionally, they cover the first person diagnosed with autism, Donald Triplett, in great detail.
This book is incredibly fascinating to read and I highly recommend that you buy a copy if you haven’t read it already.

Donvan and Zucker are currently enjoying touring the country to promote their book and educate individuals about their discoveries. I recently had the good fortune to run into them at the ASA conference in New Orleans where they delivered a keynote together.

9 thoughts on “In a Different Key – Interview with John Donvan and Caren Zucker”


    • ASPartOfMe on July 21, 2016

      I read "In A Different Key" this year and "Neurotribes" last year and am much more educated about autism and many of the people involved because of it. I am happy to hear from the interview they are going to be working on adult autism.

      What do you think about using the words Aspergers and Aspie after the revelations in the book? I still use it out of habit and because they are the the main words used to describe that part of the spectrum here but it definitly does not have the very positive feel for that and other reasons.

      We did a thread about the controversies about the book including the Hans Asperger revelations when it was first released.
      Doubts About The Book "In A Different Key"?

      Below is a reprint of a review and of the book I made in that thread back in March. It emphasizes the books take on the issues discussed often on WP.

      I have finally finished the book. It was for then most part the story of parents of Autistics organizing for good and bad. As has been mentioned if you are sympathetic to the Neurodiversity movement and dislike ABA there are many parts of the book that you will strongly dislike. In talking about Lovaas 1960′s work the authors several times found the need to tell us dispite the criticism the inconvenient truth was that it worked. To the authors credit they note how Autism Speaks became a became a behemoth by riding the anti vax wave. Then it gets a bit bizarre as they seem to think the Wright family disagreements over vaccinations tore the organization apart and weakened it. Unless I am missing something they are still the Autism Policy agenda setters in America. They note that in 2015 Autism Speaks "quietly" released a statement saying vaccines do not cause autism. They did not mention this statement came in the immediate aftermath of the Disneyland measles outbreak. Of interest to WP members there only a few paragraphs to the self diagnosis issue. By mentioning the infamous 2012 New York Magazine "Is Everybody on the Spectrum?" article it showed how they feel. There was plenty of words about the lack adult services and research so not connecting the dots is a failure. The authors take too much liberty describing the motives of people.

      That bieng said I still recommend reading it. Most of the criticism is about thier point of view. Their research has not been questioned. The positive is that you will learn stuff. The book discloses many things not in Neurotribes while greatly expanding upon other topics that are in Neurotribes. There is a very positive portrayal of Alex Plank and the founding of Wrong Planet. The book is a unintentional primer on networking something many autistics could use help with.

      Now we have two exhaustive histories of Autism written from different points of view. Each chapter of these books could be a topic of a book by themselves. As for the topics of the Autism rights and the neurodiversity movement we can not expect or depend on the NT’s like Steve Silberman to come along very often. Just as autistics have written books that have helped autistics and open minded NT’s get an understanding of what is like to be autistic it is Autistics that will have to write about the history and Autism Rights and ND movements.

    • AspieUtah on July 21, 2016

      While my opinions about In a Different Key: The Story of Autism and NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity remain within the previous topic about the matter of public reaction after both books’ publications, reiterating my opinion is less important than how well each book has been accepted in the larger reading community. Both books were reviewed favorably by The New York Times. But, current sales rankings by suggest that, while NeuroTribes continues to sell well, In a Different Key lags. ranks NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity (August 25, 2015) as:
      –#7,612 in Books
      –#2 in Books > Health, Fitness & Dieting > Psychology & Counseling > History
      –#2 in Books > Medical Books > Psychology > History
      –#4 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Social Sciences > Specific Demographics > Disabled ranks In a Different Key: The Story of Autism (January 19, 2016) as:
      –#37,000 in Books
      –#20 in Books > Health, Fitness & Dieting > Psychology & Counseling > History
      –#16 in Books > Medical Books > Psychology > History
      –#12 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Social Sciences > Specific Demographics > Disabled

      It would seem that overall public opinion about each book shows that one is favored over the other. Of course, there are some stated reasons from readers within each Amazon review why the books’ reception might have differed. They do give us an idea of what buyers and readers of such books wanted in their historical survey of autism.

      Against that background, my opinion, or that of others, is probably irrelevant.

    • Lachland Davis on July 22, 2016

      A very useful book, worth looking forward to read

    • LanguageMeterScholar on July 22, 2016

      Neurotribes was a real eye opener, I’ll try to get a copy of this book as soon as I can.

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