Sunday afternoon typically finds me perusing the New York Times book reviews. In A Different Key: The Story of Autism, of course, caught my attention. Reading the review, I knew it was a book I wanted to purchase and ordered it. However, the next day I received an email from friend Scott M. sharing that his daughter Shannon, a former intern at BNI, was working as a publicist in NYC for Penguin Books and was helping to promote the book In A Different Key: The Story of Autism. Later that week, I received a copy in the mail from Shannon!
While I certainly knew a great deal about the history of Autism, reading it in its entirety was another experience. This book actually conveys the faces and the struggles of all the moms and dads who refused to accept an institution as the only opportunity for their child. We learn how in the 1950s, the medical community blamed “refrigerator mothers” for causing Autism. Refusing to accept this, parents advocated for scientists to delve deeper into the causes and treatments for Autism. Certainly, the advancements we see today can be attributed to the determination and persistence of these parents, even in the face of adversity.
Of course, there have been many controversies surrounding the treatment of autism, and many mistakes were made… from Facilitated Communication, to feeding children LSD, and even shock treatments. The book documents these controversies well; it is obvious that it was meticulously researched. I must say that I was stunned reading about some of these treatments – to think that they would even be approved!
This is a book that should be read by everyone. Yes, it is part textbook because it is the definitive history of autism. However, the gripping personal stories take this book to another level. Many times, I did not want to put the book down, as though I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next.
This book has laid the groundwork of what has happened to-date with Autism. It will be up to future parents, advocates, scientists, and researchers to determine what happens next!