Autism: few disorders generate more controversy, misinformation, and heated argument regarding causes, diagnoses, and treatment options. With more than 200,000 cases per year in the United States alone, autism has become a hot-button topic in the medical field. Though dozens of books about autism have been published in the past decade or so, few offer the combination of comprehensive history and context, in addition to coping and caregiving suggestions, that many parents crave.
In the past few months, there have been a handful of particularly noteworthy books on the subject—two that jump to mind are Barry M. Prizant and Tom Fields-Meyer’s Uniquely Human, which we called “necessary,” and Steve Silberman’s “well-researched, readable” NeuroTribes—but none more so than In a Different Key by ABC correspondent John Donvan and ABC TV news producer Caren Zucker, who have covered autism since 2000.
As our reviewer noted, “how best to serve this diverse community is still hotly debated,” and Donvan and Zucker’s rigorous excavation of the history of autism turns up countless ways in which the medical community has failed those with autism. But the authors also document how our growing understanding of the concept of “neurodiversity” (the topic of NeuroTribes) has contributed to significant advancements in the field and brought much comfort to concerned parents.
“In this compelling, well-researched book,” wrote our reviewer, “the authors weave together the heroic search by parents for treatment and services for their children with the personal stories of a fascinating cast of characters". It’s this combination of history, biography, scientific data, and personal anecdote that make In a Different Key so accessible to its (hopefully) wide audience, the kind of science/health book that has the chance to make an impact on the level of Andrew Solomon’s Far From the Tree or Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies. Eric Liebetrau is the nonfiction and managing editor.