The word “Autism” has become romanticized, occasionally glorified, in public discussions of the neurological disorder. It is literally being stripped of its meaning as a diagnostic label of a mental disorder and is being turned into a different way of thinking, a way of life, a culture. Maybe it is time to start thinking about dropping the use of the term autism in the DSM, abandon the Autism Spectrum Disorder concept and replace it with a more informative, less romanticized, less politicized name … Synaptic Disorder.
Maybe it is time to consider abandoning the use of the term “autism” altogether and replace it with a new, more informative, and less politicized term …. synaptic disorder. In his December 2009 Simons Initiative on Autism and the Brain Lecture at MIT, “Autism, What Do We Know? What Do We Need?“, Dr. Thomas Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) acknowledged that autism is not fully explained by genetics. It is also necessary to consider environmental factors ( a point made 10 years earlier by Teresa Binstock and emphasized by many autism authorities including Dr. Irva Hertz-Picciotto). Dr. Insel also discussed the matter of how we describe autism disorders and whether we are talking about these disorders in ways that are helpful to understanding them biologically as summarized on the MIT World review of his lecture:
Insel compares talking about autism as a single disorder to talking about epilepsy or fever or chest pain as a single disorder. Discussions must include understanding details at many levels—genetic, environmental, cellular, behavioral, systems. While researchers may now increasingly refer to autisms (plural) or think of the disorder along a spectrum, these categories may cause more problems in getting to the underlying biology of the disorder. Current research suggests that autism is a developmental brain disorder, specifically a disorder of synapses.” (Bold emphasis added-HLD)