Donvan and Zucker: In a Different Key, A Graph Review

A Graph Review                            55 to high points of 65


In a different key:      The story of autism

John Donvan and Caren Zucker

different key cover

RRP £25.00

Published by Allen Lane,

hardback, £25.00.   978 184614566 7

Available through BooksEducation website:

This large book covers the history of the understanding of autism spectrum (including aspergers).  Intertwined with the life story of the  ‘first’ person to be diagnosed as autistic, Donald Triplett, (born 1933)and his story through to his eighty second year.

Considering the wealth of information in this book of 550 pages, it reads quite easily, retaining interest and pace throughout.  Additional to a useful index and bibliography are fifty pages of notes and a useful ‘autism timeline’.   Some b&w photographs are also included.

Highly USA orientated, no surprise with Donald Triplett the pivot but with key figures in the research and discussions around the world making their relevant appearances.  Donald’s story has been surprisingly positive and illustrates just how a committed family and even community can create continuing growing and learning conditions.  A comment by the authors is that they would like the story of Donald to become a film.  The success of Donald and the wealth of personal, family and community involvement could certainly create a storyline of a lifetime or some shorter, definitive period that would fit with a film.

The journalistic reporting of the facts, progressing through the years as ideas, understanding and methodology of dealing with this most complicated of syndrome changed, eventually for the better stands up well.  The noted Wakefield scare that mmr vaccination was a cause is dealt with.

There is no real faulting of the content as history and the story of Donald, maybe an overload of detail for a newcomer to the subject.  But then if you want thorough background information on a complicated subject you will read every single word; you have to start somewhere.  The overall positiveness of the progress Donald has made throughout his life is encouraging and brightens the future..

There are degrees of this diagnosis, as with any, but parents should understand that each individual often has a capacity to learn and grow into their potential. Today, with the ability to have earlier intervention and the current techniques, established and developing, such potential can be achieved.

Gary Masibov does not appear in the index although working in this field for much of his life, nor do Barry Prizant or Emily Rubin, maybe they represent current educational aspects that could not fit into the book. So much more might be added but the authors maintain a good line of story and history to keep the book manageable.   Steve Silberman gets a sentence mention but not for his brilliant book ‘Neurotribes’.

human pic

RRP £20.

Barry Prizant’s ‘Uniquely Human’ is now published and is another title that deserves mention.  ( for future review)      If you read these two plus ‘In a different key’  you will have a wide coverage, I darent  say understanding, but moving in that direction, of the world of autism.  Follow that with reading some of Temple Grandin‘s output, Haddin’s ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog that Barked in the Night’. and maybe ‘The Reason I Jump’ and you will get a little closer.  Several other books written by people with autism, like those of Temple Grandin, or the recently published ‘The Nine Degrees of Autism’, help to illustrate their particular variation of brain pattern, of personality.  Every child, every adult with autism is different to another, degree may vary from small to great; but aren’t we all just that  bit different to our neighbour, our parents, our siblings?

The titles mentioned here are available from BooksEducation website:

subject: education