Review of In a Different Key: The Story of Autism

In a Different Key: The Story of Autism is a beautifully written narrative history of autism—charting its history of discovery, diagnosis, misunderstandings, advocacy, and improvements in treatment and care. Written by journalists John Donvan and Caren Zucker, it is a valuable resource to increase our understanding of autism.


The book is comprehensive and obviously well researched. The authors did an excellent job capturing the emotional struggle and frustration of parents in the early years as they struggled with the false idea that somehow mothers were to blame. It was these very personal stories and struggles that kept me reading as I became personally involved with each person’s story.

I did not expect the book to flow from chapter to chapter as well as it did. One of the most beautiful aspects of the book was the story of Donald, the first child to ever be diagnosed with autism. Donald’s story appears in the first chapters. His story reappears in the final chapter entitled “A Happy Man.” The ending is a nice final touch.


For some the comprehensive nature of the book is a plus. Others may find the amount of information imposing. It takes a motivated reader to work their way entirely through it.

Final Analysis

This book is a gift to those families touched by these very special people who are on the autism spectrum. For those suffering it as a heavy burden, this book is a reminder that there are those who have gone before. It is a reminder of the progress that society has made and the need to continue research for further development. Pastors, ministers, counselors, and teachers may also gain valuable insights into the lives of those with autism and their families.

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review purposes. I was under no obligation to write a positive review.)