GMA shines spotlight on autism awareness as George Stephanopoulos chats with makers of In a Different Key

Caren Zucker and John Donvan on Good Morning America
Caren Zucker and John Donvan discuss their new documentary with George Stephanopoulos. Pic credit: ABC

Good Morning America shone a spotlight on autism awareness today — with George Stephanopoulos sitting down with the makers of an upcoming documentary that focuses on the topic.

The film, titled In a Different Key, will debut on December 13 on PBS. Sitting with George to promote the film was Caren Zucker and John Donvan, the film’s creators and former ABC employees.

At the start of the interview, George brought up an important area in Caren’s life, saying, “right at the beginning of the documentary you introduce us to someone very special in your life.” The host then played a clip from the upcoming documentary, which depicts Caren’s young adult son who has autism.

The clip features a voice-over from Karen, saying “take a man who finds comfort in walking around, naming all the elements of the universe.” Karen’s son, Mickey, can be seen in the clip walking along a desert.

When George asked how Caren’s son Mickey has inspired her, she responded by saying how much she loves Mickey, and when he was diagnosed with autism, she knew she had to do everything in her power to make sure he lives his best life possible.

Caren believes this can be achieved by giving her son the tools he needs to live on his own. Caren also added that because she is a journalist, it was in her nature to want to share the story of her son with the world.

John reveals his connection to autism

When George asked John how his family helped shape the story as well, the film’s co-creator told a story about his wife’s brother, who was born and raised in Israel, the country where he still resides today.

John explained that his brother-in-law was diagnosed with autism in the 70s, and there was little awareness about autism at that time. John said that his mother-in-law started the first autism organization in Israel.

George proclaimed that In a Different Key “has been a passion project for years” for Caren and John, who originally started the project as a book of the same name, before embarking on the journey of adapting their own book into a documentary.

George then asked John, “what do you hope that people get from the documentary?” John responded by saying that he wants people to get that “everybody’s connected to the story of autism whether they think they are or not.” He then explained that people on the autism spectrum are just trying to find their place in this world just like everybody else.

Oldest person ever diagnosed with autism

George revealed that Caren and John interviewed Donald Triplett, a 90-something-year-old who was the first ever person diagnosed with autism.

Caren explained that they tracked Donald down with some top-notch sleuth work, but they were told by Donald’s representatives that while they could interview him, they would face a wrath like no other if they “mess with him.”

Caren explained a bit about Donald, saying that when he becomes close with someone, he assigns them a number. John revealed that Caren’s number was 549 while Caren said that John’s number was 550.

One of George’s last questions for Caren and John was about the diversity in the autistic community. John explained that many people have one distinct view of autistic people because of television and film, and while some of that representation is great, there is so much more in the community, like non-verbal autism, that isn’t reflected in the media.

John said one of the major goals of the film is to showcase that there is a very broad spectrum in the autistic community.

George ended the interview by asking if John and Caren think we are learning as a society how to help people with autism, and both guests agree that it is getting much better.

In a Different Key premieres next Tuesday on PBS. Check local listings for times.

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