In a Different Key: The Story of Autism

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Finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction

An extraordinary narrative history of autism: the riveting story of parents fighting for their children ’s civil rights; of doctors struggling to define autism; of ingenuity, self-advocacy, and profound social change.


Nearly seventy-five years ago, Donald Triplett of Forest, Mississippi, became the first child diagnosed with autism. Beginning with his family’s odyssey, In a Different Key tells the extraordinary story of this often misunderstood condition, and of the civil rights battles waged by the families of those who have it. Unfolding over decades, it is a beautifully rendered history of ordinary people determined to secure a place in the world for those with autism—by liberating children from dank institutions, campaigning for their right to go to school, challenging expert opinion on what it means to have autism, and persuading society to accept those who are different. 

It is the story of women like Ruth Sullivan, who rebelled against a medical establishment that blamed cold and rejecting “refrigerator mothers” for causing autism; and of fathers who pushed scientists to dig harder for treatments. Many others played starring roles too: doctors like Leo Kanner, who pioneered our understanding of autism; lawyers like Tom Gilhool, who took the families’ battle for education to the courtroom; scientists who sparred over how to treat autism; and those with autism, like Temple Grandin, Alex Plank, and Ari Ne’eman, who explained their inner worlds and championed the philosophy of neurodiversity.

This is also a story of fierce controversies—from the question of whether there is truly an autism “epidemic,” and whether vaccines played a part in it; to scandals involving “facilitated communication,” one of many treatments that have proved to be blind alleys; to stark disagreements about whether scientists should pursue a cure for autism. There are dark turns too: we learn about experimenters feeding LSD to children with autism, or shocking them with electricity to change their behavior; and the authors reveal compelling evidence that Hans Asperger, discoverer of the syndrome named after him, participated in the Nazi program that consigned disabled children to death.

By turns intimate and panoramic, In a Different Key takes us on a journey from an era when families were shamed and children were condemned to institutions to one in which a cadre of people with autism push not simply for inclusion, but for a new understanding of autism: as difference rather than disability.
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About the author

JOHN DONVAN is a multiple Emmy Award-winning correspondent for ABC and the moderator of the Intelligence Squared U.S. debate series. Find him on Twitter at @johndonvan. CAREN ZUCKER is a Peabody award-winning television news producer, a twenty-five-year veteran of ABC News, and producer and co-writer of the six-part PBS series “Autism Now.”


From the Hardcover edition.
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4.5
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Additional Information

Publisher
Broadway Books
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Published on
Jan 19, 2016
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Pages
688
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ISBN
9780307985682
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Psychology / History
Psychology / Psychopathology / Autism Spectrum Disorders
Social Science / People with Disabilities
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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A New York Times bestseller

Winner of the 2015 Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction

A groundbreaking book that upends conventional thinking about autism and suggests a broader model for acceptance, understanding, and full participation in society for people who think differently.
 
What is autism? A lifelong disability, or a naturally occurring form of cognitive difference akin to certain forms of genius? In truth, it is all of these things and more—and the future of our society depends on our understanding it. WIRED reporter Steve Silberman unearths the secret history of autism, long suppressed by the same clinicians who became famous for discovering it, and finds surprising answers to the crucial question of why the number of diagnoses has soared in recent years.
 
Going back to the earliest days of autism research and chronicling the brave and lonely journey of autistic people and their families through the decades, Silberman provides long-sought solutions to the autism puzzle, while mapping out a path for our society toward a more humane world in which people with learning differences and those who love them have access to the resources they need to live happier, healthier, more secure, and more meaningful lives.
 
Along the way, he reveals the untold story of Hans Asperger, the father of Asperger’s syndrome, whose “little professors” were targeted by the darkest social-engineering experiment in human history; exposes the covert campaign by child psychiatrist Leo Kanner to suppress knowledge of the autism spectrum for fifty years; and casts light on the growing movement of "neurodiversity" activists seeking respect, support, technological innovation, accommodations in the workplace and in education, and the right to self-determination for those with cognitive differences.


From the Hardcover edition.
An extraordinary memoir about the cutting-edge brain therapy that dramatically changed the life and mind of John Elder Robison, the New York Times bestselling author of Look Me in the Eye

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST

Imagine spending the first forty years of your life in darkness, blind to the emotions and social signals of other people. Then imagine that someone suddenly switches the lights on.

It has long been assumed that people living with autism are born with the diminished ability to read the emotions of others, even as they feel emotion deeply. But what if we’ve been wrong all this time? What if that “missing” emotional insight was there all along, locked away and inaccessible in the mind?

In 2007 John Elder Robison wrote the international bestseller Look Me in the Eye, a memoir about growing up with Asperger’s syndrome. Amid the blaze of publicity that followed, he received a unique invitation: Would John like to take part in a study led by one of the world’s foremost neuroscientists, who would use an experimental new brain therapy known as TMS, or transcranial magnetic stimulation, in an effort to understand and then address the issues at the heart of autism? Switched On is the extraordinary story of what happened next.

Having spent forty years as a social outcast, misreading others’ emotions or missing them completely, John is suddenly able to sense a powerful range of feelings in other people. However, this newfound insight brings unforeseen problems and serious questions. As the emotional ground shifts beneath his feet, John struggles with the very real possibility that choosing to diminish his disability might also mean sacrificing his unique gifts and even some of his closest relationships. Switched On is a real-life Flowers for Algernon, a fascinating and intimate window into what it means to be neurologically different, and what happens when the world as you know it is upended overnight.

Praise for Switched On

“An eye-opening book with a radical message . . . The transformations [Robison] undergoes throughout the book are astonishing—as foreign and overwhelming as if he woke up one morning with the visual range of a bee or the auditory prowess of a bat.”—The New York Times

“Astonishing, brave . . . reads like a medical thriller and keeps you wondering what will happen next . . . [Robison] takes readers for a ride through the thorny thickets of neuroscience and leaves us wanting more.”—The Washington Post

“Fascinating for its insights into Asperger’s and research, this engrossing record will make readers reexamine their preconceptions about this syndrome and the future of brain manipulation.”—Booklist

“Like books by Andrew Solomon and Oliver Sacks, Switched On offers an opportunity to consider mental processes through a combination of powerful narrative and informative medical context.”—BookPage

“A mind-blowing book that will force you to ask deep questions about what is important in life. Would normalizing the brains of those who think differently reduce their motivation for great achievement?”—Temple Grandin, author of The Autistic Brain

“At the heart of Switched On are fundamental questions of who we are, of where our identity resides, of difference and disability and free will, which are brought into sharp focus by Robison’s lived experience.”—Graeme Simsion, author of The Rosie Effect
“Compelling, and so beautifully written…’The Mind Club’ deftly brings the most up-to-date research about other minds to readers of all backgrounds. It may cause you to think differently about crime and punishment, about business transactions and health care, and even about the upcoming elections. Things might just start looking up.”–The Wall Street Journal

From dogs to gods, the science of understanding mysterious minds—including your own.   

Nothing seems more real than the minds of other people. When you consider what your boss is thinking or whether your spouse is happy, you are admitting them into the "mind club." It’s easy to assume other humans can think and feel, but what about a cow, a computer, a corporation? What kinds of mind do they have? Daniel M. Wegner and Kurt Gray are award-winning psychologists who have discovered that minds—while incredibly important—are a matter of perception. Their research opens a trove of new findings, with insights into human behavior that are fascinating, frightening and funny.
       The Mind Club explains why we love some animals and eat others, why people debate the existence of God so intensely, how good people can be so cruel, and why robots make such poor lovers.  By investigating the mind perception of extraordinary targets—animals, machines, comatose people, god—Wegner and Gray explain what it means to have a mind, and why it matters so much.
         Fusing cutting-edge research and personal anecdotes, The Mind Club explores the moral dimensions of mind perception with wit and compassion, revealing the surprisingly simple basis for what compels us to love and hate, to harm and to protect.


From the Hardcover edition.
“One of the most remarkable books I’ve ever read. It’s truly moving, eye-opening, incredibly vivid.”—Jon Stewart, The Daily Show

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
NPR • The Wall Street Journal • Bloomberg Business • Bookish

FINALIST FOR THE BOOKS FOR A BETTER LIFE FIRST BOOK AWARD • NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

You’ve never read a book like The Reason I Jump. Written by Naoki Higashida, a very smart, very self-aware, and very charming thirteen-year-old boy with autism, it is a one-of-a-kind memoir that demonstrates how an autistic mind thinks, feels, perceives, and responds in ways few of us can imagine. Parents and family members who never thought they could get inside the head of their autistic loved one at last have a way to break through to the curious, subtle, and complex life within.
 
Using an alphabet grid to painstakingly construct words, sentences, and thoughts that he is unable to speak out loud, Naoki answers even the most delicate questions that people want to know. Questions such as: “Why do people with autism talk so loudly and weirdly?” “Why do you line up your toy cars and blocks?” “Why don’t you make eye contact when you’re talking?” and “What’s the reason you jump?” (Naoki’s answer: “When I’m jumping, it’s as if my feelings are going upward to the sky.”) With disarming honesty and a generous heart, Naoki shares his unique point of view on not only autism but life itself. His insights—into the mystery of words, the wonders of laughter, and the elusiveness of memory—are so startling, so strange, and so powerful that you will never look at the world the same way again.
 
In his introduction, bestselling novelist David Mitchell writes that Naoki’s words allowed him to feel, for the first time, as if his own autistic child was explaining what was happening in his mind. “It is no exaggeration to say that The Reason I Jump allowed me to round a corner in our relationship.” This translation was a labor of love by David and his wife, KA Yoshida, so they’d be able to share that feeling with friends, the wider autism community, and beyond. Naoki’s book, in its beauty, truthfulness, and simplicity, is a gift to be shared.

Praise for The Reason I Jump

“This is an intimate book, one that brings readers right into an autistic mind.”—Chicago Tribune (Editor’s Choice)

“Amazing times a million.”—Whoopi Goldberg, People

“The Reason I Jump is a Rosetta stone. . . . This book takes about ninety minutes to read, and it will stretch your vision of what it is to be human.”—Andrew Solomon, The Times (U.K.)

“Extraordinary, moving, and jeweled with epiphanies.”—The Boston Globe
 
“Small but profound . . . [Higashida’s] startling, moving insights offer a rare look inside the autistic mind.”—Parade


From the Hardcover edition.
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