How can autism be prevented?
Can autism be prevented? Sure. We can all stop having sex and making babies. Problem solved.
But other than that, no, not at the moment.
Because it's genetic in origin and we don't have the knowledge or technology at the moment to screen parents for autism-causing genes. Moreover, we don't have the knowledge or technology to edit any autism-causing genes we did identify so they didn't cause autism.
So in many ways the question is moot, since we're not going to stop having sex any time soon, there's no way to predict if a child is going to be born autistic or not, and even if we discover it is going to be born autistic, there's not much we can do to stop it without terminating the pregnancy (more on this in a moment).
However, this doesn't mean to say we shouldn't be asking the question and discussing it, because like it or not research into the genetic and epigenetic causes of autism is going on and one day it's likely we'll be in a position where we can at least determine if a foetus is going to be born autistic and then, inevitably, have to decide what we do about that.
And it's here where so many autistics throw their toys out of the pram in an hysterical burst of irrationality.
Asking how can autism be prevented is a legitimate scientific enquiry
The argument I see all the time from autistics is along the lines of "this research mustn't be allowed because they're saying autistic people don't have a right to exist... and they don't want me to be alive!".
This argument alone gives lie to the myth autistic people are all intelligent, because it's as dumb as dumb gets.
The ethics of terminating a pregnancy because of foetal abnormality are well established. It's done as a matter of routine for things like Down's Syndrome and other conditions. In that respect it's nothing new. Autism prevention is qualitatively no different.
You could argue all terminations based on foetal abnormality are unethical, and that's your prerogative. But there's no such thing as objective morality (unless you're foolish enough to believe in some god or other and rely on holy books written by men for your moral guidance), and the law in many jurisdictions doesn't agree with you, so your opinion is valid but irrelevant.
But I think even this is moot, because a woman has the right to terminate a pregnancy for any reason or no reason at all.
Women almost never have terminations casually (and if you're a woman in this awful position, there's a UK charity here which may be of some help), and I doubt it's ever the easy way out for anyone. The argument you're destroying an "autistic life" is absurd.
They argue, "What if you're killing the child who will one day grow up to find a cure for cancer?".
Sure, that's possible.
But it's also possible you're killing the child who will one day grow up to be the next Adolf Hitler.
It's a stupid argument either way.
Science is about understanding how the world works.
Your irrational emotional kneejerk reaction to something you disapprove of has no bearing on any of it.
Rather than wasting time and energy trying to change things which are none of your business, you'd be better off putting it into learning to control your own emotional state.
In short: grow up.
If a woman wants to abort an autistic foetus, it's no one's business but hers.
Having an autistic child could turn out to be a 24/7 commitment for the rest of her adult life. It could ruin her marriage, her relationship with her other children if she has them, her career, and her whole life.
No one has the right to force that upon her (and if you claim to care that much, then I'd be more impressed if you adopted a few of these children yourself before forcing that life upon others).
It's her body and her right to self-determination and autonomy trumps any and all rights of the foetus dependent on her for its survival.
That's a simple and straightforward libertarian view and one I've held all my adult life.
You don't like it or have to agree with it, because it's none of your business.
Can autism be prevented?
One day, perhaps.
Should it be?
A personal decision to be made only by the woman carrying the foetus.
I am autistic, and I approve this message.
Jon McCulloch, The Evil Bald Genius
Author, speaker, business owner, and autism advocate