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Autism ‘crash course’ offered in engaging new film, ‘In a Different Key’: ‘Changing hearts and minds’

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Two longtime reporters and producers have created a striking new film about autism that they hope will “change the hearts and minds” of millions — and help foster “a new understanding” of those who are diagnosed with autism, no matter where those individuals may fall on the autism spectrum.  

Caren Zucker and John Donvan, authors of the book “In a Different Key,” have created a new film of the same name. It’s scheduled to be shown on PBS on Tuesday, Dec. 13.

The New Jersey-based Zucker told Fox News Digital in a joint phone interview with Donvan, “As cliché as it may sound, we really want to change the world” with this film.

“And the way to do it,” she added, “is sometimes one person at a time. We think this film is a way for people to sort of get a crash course in autism.”

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The film, through its visuals, music and storytelling, offers a deep dive into autism — often vastly misunderstood — with its depiction of about half a dozen people and their experiences. Not all of it is pleasant and positive, to be sure. Some of it is painful and heartbreaking. Yet all of it is true.

It shows a range of realities experienced by those who have “profound autism, people who lead independent lives, women with autism, people of color with autism, people who live in poverty with autism — it really covers everything,” said Zucker.

Mom Caren Zucker (right) is shown with her son, Mickey, who was diagnosed with autism years ago as a toddler. Both appear in the new documentary, "In a Different Key," scheduled to be shown on PBS on Dec. 13, 2022. 

Mom Caren Zucker (right) is shown with her son, Mickey, who was diagnosed with autism years ago as a toddler. Both appear in the new documentary, “In a Different Key,” scheduled to be shown on PBS on Dec. 13, 2022. 
(Courtesy “In A Different Key”)

She added, “Some people walk away from it sort of laughing, and some people cry” — but either way, those who see it gain “a new understanding.”

“And once you have that understanding, it will never go away,” she said.

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The producers have been showing their film in recent months in small group settings — so they’ve seen the reaction. That reaction includes the woman who stopped them on the street after seeing the film and told them, “I get it now! I totally get it.”

The pair encourage conversation about the issues revealed within — and sometimes, they said, those conversations take on a life of their own.

“We made the film to give people who don’t know much about autism a very, very engaging look at it.”

The conversations have continued far past the events themselves. People talk about the film in their homes, with their friends, within their circles and in other settings, they said.  

“We made the film to give people who don’t know much about autism a very, very engaging look at it,” said Donvan to Fox News Digital. 

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He also stressed that the documentary is not meant solely for the autism community — it’s for “civilians” outside autism circles, those who don’t have direct experience with the condition. 

Most of all, said Donvan, “It is not a lecture. This is not about scolding.” 

Instead, “we want to inspire people,” added Donvan, who is based in Washington, D.C.

Zucker’s own son, Mickey, was diagnosed with autism many years ago as a toddler — and Mickey’s story is told in the film. 

‘First person who had this diagnosis’

The film also reveals the life of the first person in the country to be diagnosed with autism — Donald Triplett of Forest, Mississippi, who today is in his 80s.  

Zucker and Donvan sought him out because they wanted to understand his life — as a way of helping others with theirs.

The film "In a Different Key" takes viewers into the lives of a number of people diagnosed with autism, including Donald Triplett of Forest, Mississippi (right), the first person in this country to be diagnosed, in the 1940s. At left are Caren Zucker and her son, Mickey, who also appear in the film. 

The film “In a Different Key” takes viewers into the lives of a number of people diagnosed with autism, including Donald Triplett of Forest, Mississippi (right), the first person in this country to be diagnosed, in the 1940s. At left are Caren Zucker and her son, Mickey, who also appear in the film. 
(Courtesy “In A Different Key”)

Initially, said Donvan, “We thought we would make the film just about him, because it was exciting for us to be able to find the first person who had this diagnosis, and to learn that he was still alive and that we could reach him, and get to know him. It was just a great piece of archival discovery,” he added. 

“Everything about [Donald’s] story is remarkable,” said Zucker. 

“There’s much more work to be done so that everybody, every community, is inspired.”

The producers ultimately felt that “if we really wanted to educate [others] about the breadth of the autism spectrum, telling the story of just one person was not going to do that,” said Donvan.

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So Donald’s story is “set in relief against the realities of so many other people” with autism.

“And very often those realities are not as wonderful and beautiful and inspiring,” he added. 

Donald Triplett of Mississippi, born in 1933, was the first person to be diagnosed with autism — and "In a Different Key" tells his revealing story. It also tells the story of a range of other individuals. 

Donald Triplett of Mississippi, born in 1933, was the first person to be diagnosed with autism — and “In a Different Key” tells his revealing story. It also tells the story of a range of other individuals. 
(Courtesy “In A Different Key”)

“That’s where the film makes the point that there’s much more work to be done so that everybody, every community, is inspired by the way Donald’s community in Forest, Mississippi, has respected, welcomed and honored him for his whole life.” 

‘Been telling stories’

Zucker and Donvan have been covering autism for about 25 years, they said. They began to do so “back in the ’90s, when my son was first diagnosed,” said Zucker.

She added, “I was a producer and John was a correspondent. We’ve sort of been telling stories ever since then, including in our book, ‘In a Different Key.’”

The pair say they’re going to “continue to do what we’ve been doing, which is to have private screenings of the film around the country, for businesses, medical groups, police groups — and most importantly to have a conversation after the film.”

Donald Triplett (left) along with Caren Zucker and John Donvan. Donald Triplett's story, the producers said, is

Donald Triplett (left) along with Caren Zucker and John Donvan. Donald Triplett’s story, the producers said, is “set in relief against the realities of so many other people” with autism.
(Courtesy “In A Different Key”)

Here are more highlights from their interview by phone with Fox News Digital.

Autism ‘doesn’t discriminate’ 

Zucker: The story of Donald Triplett is the story of the first person ever diagnosed. There have been people with autism forever — but nobody had talked about autism, and it wasn’t defined before that. 

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So [we’re] sharing his success, really — at a time when most people who were diagnosed with autism or any sort of difference were put into institutions. You know, Donald really had the life that most people [with autism] did not have the good fortune to have in the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s. And his community fully embraced him. 

“We tried to share over half a dozen different stories of people who are each incredibly different from the others.”

We were incredibly excited about getting to know him and learning the life that he had. 

The spectrum is so broad. To help others understand it [as fully as possible], we tried to share over half a dozen different stories of people who are each incredibly different from the others. All those people have autism. It doesn’t discriminate.

‘Awareness of how different everyone is’

Zucker: Ultimately we hope we’re changing as many hearts and minds as possible. In the film, there’s a scene with the police — and how misunderstandings can really lead to tragic situations. It’s about awareness and knowledge. [Knowing] that somebody has autism can change a scene completely.

We don’t show hospital settings, but if you’re a doctor and you see this film, you’ll have a new awareness of how different everyone is. Our goal is to get it everywhere: to get it into police departments, hospitals, businesses, the workforce.

Donvan: And into middle schools and high schools.

Zucker: When you start with kids when they’re really young, when they’re two and three years old — and you have them side by side with children [of all kinds] — and they all grow up respecting each other, that’s how you really begin to change society. 

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[People] need to see that it’s not so hard to have the back of someone who has autism. 

‘Message is much bigger’

Donvan: The film is kind of a love story — a lot of different love stories, really. There’s Caren’s love for her son, Mickey — and Mickey agreed to be part of the film. He appears in it very prominently and Karen is the main storyteller. 

And there are funny moments and there are moments that have people pulling out tissues in the theater. It’s really meant to draw people in. It’s a journey, with emotional ups and downs, with heartwarming moments and tough moments.  

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Zucker: And it’s not just about autism. It’s about anybody who’s different — and we all can be part of a community. 

Donvan: Autism is our lens, but the message is much bigger than autism. 

For more information, the film’s website is inadifferentkeythemovie.com. 

Source: https://www.foxnews.com/lifestyle/autism-crash-course-film-different-key-hearts-minds

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On this day in history, Jan. 28, 1986, space shuttle Challenger explodes, shocking the nation

On this day in history, Jan. 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger — scheduled for a routine launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida — exploded after just 73 seconds in flight, killing all seven Americans on board.

The disaster shocked the nation — and led to an immediate pause in the space shuttle program.

The cause of the disaster was found to be the failure of the primary and secondary redundant O-ring seals in a joint in the shuttle’s right solid rocket booster (SRB).

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While the mission on that fateful day in 1986 was supposed to be like any other routine mission, unusually cold temperatures caused the external tank to explode seconds into takeoff — causing the orbiter to disintegrate and the spacecraft to explode, according to NASA. 

The space shuttle Challenger lifts off on Jan. 28, 1986. Carrying seven crew members, including teacher Christa McAuliffe, Challenger exploded just 73 seconds into its launch — killing all on board. 

The space shuttle Challenger lifts off on Jan. 28, 1986. Carrying seven crew members, including teacher Christa McAuliffe, Challenger exploded just 73 seconds into its launch — killing all on board. 
(Bob Pearson/AFP via Getty Images)

In addition to highly experienced astronauts, the Challenger carried a special passenger on board: teacher Christa McAuliffe. 

She was a social studies teacher from Concord, New Hampshire, chosen from among 10,000 others who applied to be the first private citizen in space, according to Britannica. 

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In her application, McAuliffe said she would keep a journal about her experience — and would include sections about her training, the flight experience and her feelings about returning to Earth.

One of the reasons McAuliffe was chosen, apparently, was her teaching experience — and the way she would be able to connect with children across the country. 

This November 1985 file provided by NASA shows the crew of the U.S space shuttle Challenger. Front row, from left: astronauts Mike Smith, Dick Scobee, Ron McNair; back row, from left: Ellison Onizuka, schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe, Greg Jarvis and Judith Resnik.

This November 1985 file provided by NASA shows the crew of the U.S space shuttle Challenger. Front row, from left: astronauts Mike Smith, Dick Scobee, Ron McNair; back row, from left: Ellison Onizuka, schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe, Greg Jarvis and Judith Resnik.
(NASA/AFP via Getty Images)

And that is why, on the day of the launch, scores of students in schools across the country watched as a teacher launched into space for the first time ever. 

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It was unfortunate timing for young children to watch this particular launch — something President Reagan was worried about when he was deciding how to address Americans later that evening.

Leading up to Challenger

Americans had been visiting space for decades before that — the first time in 1961, with U.S. Navy test pilot Alan Shepard. 

Shepard was the second man in space following the Soviet Union’s Yuri Gagarin just a mere weeks before. 

By 1969, space travel had progressed to visiting the moon — something the U.S. successfully completed with Apollo 11 that year.

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However, with this success, Americans began to fear the government was spending too much on space, according to NASA. 

A reusable manned spacecraft then became a focus by the Nixon administration, and the space shuttle program was born.

Christa McAuliffe (1948-1986), wearing a blue NASA jumpsuit, smiles in a studio portrait while holding a model of a space shuttle at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, on Sept. 26, 1985. She was the first private citizen to go into space on the shuttle.

Christa McAuliffe (1948-1986), wearing a blue NASA jumpsuit, smiles in a studio portrait while holding a model of a space shuttle at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, on Sept. 26, 1985. She was the first private citizen to go into space on the shuttle.
(Space Frontiers/Archive Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The Challenger’s first mission was in April 1983 — and it quickly became one of the most popular spacecrafts to be used in the following three years, according to NASA.

The annual State of the Union address for early 1986 had been scheduled to take place on the evening of the Challenger’s launch — but given the tragedy, President Reagan chose to delay the address by a week. 

“The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave.”

Instead, that night, Reagan did address the nation but from the familiar Oval Office instead. 

President Reagan addresses the nation about the Challenger shuttle disaster, on Jan. 28, 1986, from the Oval Office of the White House.  

President Reagan addresses the nation about the Challenger shuttle disaster, on Jan. 28, 1986, from the Oval Office of the White House.  
(Diana Walker/Getty Images)

Reagan began by saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, I’d planned to speak to you tonight to report on the State of the Union, but the events of earlier today have led me to change those plans.”

He went on, “Today is a day for mourning and remembering. Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger. We know we share this pain with all of the people of our country. This is truly a national loss.”

Mandana Marsh holds her daughter, Molly, 4, as they watched TV coverage hours after the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger inside their home in Concord, New Hampshire, on Jan. 28, 1986. When her mother explained what happened, young Molly asked,

Mandana Marsh holds her daughter, Molly, 4, as they watched TV coverage hours after the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger inside their home in Concord, New Hampshire, on Jan. 28, 1986. When her mother explained what happened, young Molly asked, “Can’t Christa swim?” 
(Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

In his speech, Reagan also expressed a willingness to remain steadfast in the pursuit of space flight — but also, he focused on the families of those who were aboard the Challenger and on the children who were watching the flight from their classrooms or homes.

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“I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen,” Reagan told the country that night.

“The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave,” Reagan also said.

“The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future — and we’ll continue to follow them.”

On this day in history, Jan. 28, 1986, the Challenger spacecraft exploded — killing all seven passengers aboard. That evening, President Reagan addressed the nation from the Oval Office about the tragedy.  

On this day in history, Jan. 28, 1986, the Challenger spacecraft exploded — killing all seven passengers aboard. That evening, President Reagan addressed the nation from the Oval Office about the tragedy.  
(Getty Images)

The next mission launch was over two-and-a half years later, in September 1988 — named the “Return to Flight” mission. 

The mission lasted for four days and included 64 orbits around the planet.

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It ended with a successful landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California, according to NASA. 

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JCPenney partners with shelters to help senior dogs like Kofi of Texas find a home

JCPenney is partnering with local shelters around the country to help adoptable senior dogs find their forever homes. 

The large retailer is taking its well-known JCPenney-style portraits of the dogs — so that interested adopters can step forward to help animals in need. 

Kofi is a spaniel mix at the Dallas Pets Alive organization in Dallas, Texas — and he desperately needs a home.

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Kofi is looking for a forever home where he could spend the last chapter of his life. 

He is well-behaved and considered docile — fully content with just sitting quieting next to his new owner, according to the organization.

Kofi is a senior spaniel mix who weighs about 35 pounds. He needs a forever home.

Kofi is a senior spaniel mix who weighs about 35 pounds. He needs a forever home.
(JCPenney Portraits by Lifetouch)

Kofi has a black-and-gold coloring and his fur is said to be silky soft — making him an easy dog to keep petting. 

He weighs roughly 35 pounds and enjoys going on walks, Fox News Digital is told.

“We’re excited to give the senior dogs in these shelters their chance to shine.”

He also gets along well with others — so having other pets or children in the house could be good for him. 

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Kofi is spayed, neutered, microchipped and up-to-date on all vaccines. 

JCPenney is partnering with local shelters around the country to help adoptable senior dogs find their forever homes. 

JCPenney is partnering with local shelters around the country to help adoptable senior dogs find their forever homes. 
(JCPenney Portraits by Lifetouch)

He is just one of the many dogs featured in JCPenney’s new campaign about shelter dogs and JCPenney Portraits by Lifetouch. 

Bill Cunningham, JCPenney’s vice president of marketing strategy, said the occasion is special for many reasons. 

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“We’re excited to give the senior dogs in these shelters, who are often less likely to be adopted, their chance to shine and encourage customers to get involved with their local communities to change a pet’s life for the better,” Cunningham said in a media statement. 

Kofi is located at Dallas Pets Alive, an organization in Dallas, Texas. 

Kofi is located at Dallas Pets Alive, an organization in Dallas, Texas. 
(JCPenney Portraits by Lifetouch)

The partnership runs from Jan. 24 through Feb. 28. 

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Those interested can visit JCP.com to see new adoptable pets … and some adorable portraits. 

JCPenney is partnering with local shelters across the country to try to help senior adoptable dogs find homes. 

JCPenney is partnering with local shelters across the country to try to help senior adoptable dogs find homes. 
(JCPenney Portraits by Lifetouch)

JCPenney will also be donating $1,000 to each of the 10 shelters it’s partnered with to help animals find homes.

The shelters are located in 10 different cities around the country: Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Louisville, Miami, Orlando, Philadelphia and Phoenix. 

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For more information on Kofi, anyone interested can visit dallaspetsalive.org or email adopt@dallaspetsalive.org.

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They risked their lives for others: Author Richard Hurowitz remembers unsung heroes of the Holocaust

January 27 is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, designated as such by the United Nations. 

Why this date?  

On this date in history, Jan. 27, 1945, the infamous Nazi German slave labor and death camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, was liberated by the Soviet army.

The day recalls the killing of six million Jews as well as millions of other people by the Nazi regime and collaborators.

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But there are scores of interconnected stories as well.

“During the Holocaust,” wrote Richard Hurowitz in a recent essay in The Wall Street Journal, “citizens from Denmark to Greece protected their Jewish neighbors from the Nazis by standing together.”

Richard Hurowitz's new book is

Richard Hurowitz’s new book is “In the Garden of the Righteous: The Heroes Who Risked Their Lives to Save Jews During the Holocaust.”
(Richard Hurowitz/Donna Newman)

Most of these heroic individuals were and are still largely unknown. 

Remembering the horrors of war — and chronicling how brave people, in the face of fear, brutality and cruelty, stood up for other human beings even when their own lives were on the line — is the job of historians, authors, journalists and others who believe the truth needs to be passed along to new generations.

“In the Garden of the Righteous” pays tribute to those who risked everything for others.

In this spirit, writer and investor Richard Hurowitz has just released a new book, “In the Garden of the Righteous: The Heroes Who Risked Their Lives to Save Jews During the Holocaust” (HarperCollins), which pays tribute to those who risked their very existence to help others in trouble.

Among them are Adolf and Maria Althoff, who hid Jewish acrobatic performers in plain sight from the Nazis — and Italian cycling champion Gino Bartali, who faked long-distance practice runs to sneak forged identity papers that saved hundreds of people.

Hurowitz, based in New York, is publisher of The Octavian Report, a quarterly “journal of ideas.” He is chief executive officer of Octavian and Company LLC, an investment firm.

Just ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Fox News Digital posed three questions to the author.

‘An under-covered topic’

Fox News Digital: Why did you write this book now? 

Richard Hurowitz: Rescue during the Holocaust and the courage of those who risked their lives to save Jews and others is an extremely under-covered topic — yet people find it enormously inspirational.  

Oskar Schindler and Raoul Wallenberg are well known, but beyond those two archetypes very few rescuers have gotten the acclaim they deserve.  

Author Richard Hurowitz told Fox News Digital that his new book "grew out of several profiles I wrote for newspapers of individual rescuers — and the response was extraordinary."

Author Richard Hurowitz told Fox News Digital that his new book “grew out of several profiles I wrote for newspapers of individual rescuers — and the response was extraordinary.”
(Courtesy Richard Hurowitz)

Some of the people rescued in my book were or went on to have enormous impact on the world — from the physicist Niels Bohr to the artist Mark Chagall to many members of royalty — while most were ordinary refugees.  

The book grew out of several profiles I wrote for newspapers of individual rescuers — and the response was extraordinary. 

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I think people are looking for stories of inspiration and courage during our own difficult times. 

At a time of rising bigotry, anti-Semitism, polarization and conflict, I think these stories are extremely timely.

‘I hope people are inspired’

Fox News Digital: If you wanted readers to have one memorable takeaway from your book, what would it be?

Hurowitz: I hope people are inspired by these stories and learn about some of history’s forgotten heroes. 

And I hope they are inspired and remember that there is good in the world and that everyone can make a difference.  

It is not just in times of utmost peril like the Second World War

Indeed, we can avoid our society heading in that direction by standing up for the values of compassion, kindness and tolerance.  

There were even communities in Europe during the war — such as Denmark or the village of Le Chambon in France — where the entire group stood together against the Nazis. And were able to save almost all their Jewish neighbors.  

So I hope the book is a message of hope — and [that it] offers lessons on how we can make our world a better place.

‘Rescues echo down through the generations’

Fox News Digital: What stays with you in terms of reporting and writing the book?

Hurowitz: I have had the profound experience, when I’ve written about rescuers, to hear from people I personally know who are alive today because their family was saved by them. 

Rescues echoes down through the generations. 

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There are possibly one million people alive today because of the 10 rescues profiled in the book. 

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And at least some of [these people] many of us probably know — and some of them have themselves done extraordinary things that would have been lost to us had it not been for courage eight decades ago.

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