John Donvan & Caren Zucker - "In a Different Key: The Story of Autism" - UChicago Hillel - Institute of Politics - Illinois Science Council

Saturday, February 6, 2016 - 5:00pm - 6:30pm

John Donvan & Caren Zucker will read from In a Different Key: The Story of Autism. A reception and book signing will follow the talk. 

Co-sponsored by UChicago Hillel, Institute of Politics, and Illinois Science Council

At the UChicago Hillel (5715 S. Woodlawn)

RSVP HERE

About the book: 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.

About John Donvan: John Donvan is a correspondent for ABC News, and host and mod­erator of the Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates, which are heard on public radio and by podcast. During his journalism career, in addition to anchoring such broadcasts as ABC's Nightline, John served as chief White House correspondent, and held multiyear postings in London, Moscow, Jerusalem, and Amman, Jordan. He is the winner of three Emmys and the Overseas Press Club Award. He became interested in autism's impact on families upon meeting his wife, the physician and medical school professor Ranit Mishori, who grew up in Israel with a brother profoundly affected by autism. John also performs as a live storyteller with the group Story District. He has two children and lives in Washington, DC. (Twitter:@JohnDonvan)

About Caren Zucker: Caren Zucker is a journalist and television producer who has reported on a broad range of subjects both domestically and internationally. As a producer for ABC's World News and Nightline, working alongside Peter Jennings, Charlie Gibson, and Diane Sawyer, she covered economic summits, presidential campaigns, social trends, and the Olympic Games. Emmy-nominated, she was honored for her part in ABC's coverage of 9/11 with two of television's most prestigious prizes, the Peabody and the Alfred L. DuPont awards. Her oldest son Mickey's autism diagnosis inspired a new direction in her reporting: to bring a better understand­ing of autism's realities. Zucker and her husband, the NBC Sports execu­tive John McGuinness, have three children and reside in New Jersey. (Twitter: @Caren_Zucker).

As a team, Donvan and Zucker have been collaborating on stories about autism since 2000. At ABC, they created the pioneering series Echoes of Autism, the first regular feature segment in network news devoted to understanding the lives of individuals and families living with autism. Their 2010 article in The Atlantic, "Autism's First Child," was shortlisted for the National Magazine Award and appeared in the paperback anthology Best Magazine Writing of 2011. Zucker also pro­duced the series Autism Now for the PBS NewsHour. As two journalists with a personal connection to autism, they aim to inspire acceptance of and support for people on the spectrum by telling their stories with honesty and compassion.

About UChicago Hillel: UChicago Hillel is the center and catalyst for Jewish life at the University of Chicago. Part of Hillel International, UChicago Hillel’s mission is to enrich the lives of Jewish students so that they may enrich the Jewish people and the world. Hillel welcomes students of all backgrounds and hopes to foster an enduring commitment to Jewish life, learning and Israel. 

About the Institute of Politics: The nonpartisan Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago is an extracurricular program designed to ignite in young people a passion for politics and public service.

About the Illinois Science Council: Illinois Science Council (“ISC”) is an independent, volunteer-driven 501c3 organization that engages, educates, and entertains the adult public about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in our everyday lives. We highlight the scientists and research of the Chicago-area institutions and companies that make Chicago the nation’s true “City of Science.” ISC serves as the science & tech complement to the region’s arts & culture offerings.

Event Location: 
Newberger Hillel Center
5715 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637