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The Award-Winning Documentary Film

 IN A DIFFERENT KEY is a feature-length documentary exploring for the first time society's checkered record in accepting (or more often, not) people on the autism spectrum. The narrative follows a journalists's quest to understand how the world will treat her own autistic son once she is gone. Hearing that the first child diagnosed with autism might still be alive, she sets out to find him -- and does. Nearing 90, Donald Triplett was “Case 1” in history’s inaugural autism study, and still resides in the Mississippi town where he was born.

But that is only the first revelation. Donald, she discovers, lives at the heart of a beautiful story. While his autism created challenges, he experienced only love, support and appreciation from his neighbors,  who celebrate him as he is. They are the model of acceptance – what she wants for her son.

But one happy outcome can never capture the complexity of all autistic experience. So the film goes bigger, and the journey wider, uncovering stories of autistic people and their families engaging society’s attitudes over decades and across circumstances, up through today when 1 in 35 American children is diagnosed with autism.

These stories are troubling, exposing the many ways communities and systems often failed autistic people and still do. There is the racism that denies people of color even the acknowledgment of an autism diagnosis. The record of toxic interactions between police and people on the spectrum. The compounding effect of poverty in denying fulfilling lives for autistic children. Always present, too, is the stigmatization that persists through decades.

Ending on hope, the film returns to Donald’s happier orbit, with the express wish that others can see the inspiring example set by his community, captured by the neighbor who said of Donald, simply, “He’s our guy.”


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