After spending the weekend thinking about last week's "Question of the day" and reading the comments that people have posted I now feel strongly about an answer.
I'll use my own experience as an example. I was finally diagnosed at the age of 20 and had no idea what I had or what it was about. The way I found out was I turned to the internet and read some horrible "facts" that I have sense learned were nothing but nonsense. However, at the time, I believed it and I went into a denial and a large bout of self-hatred.
Now, let's say I got the diagnosis when I was really young, and my parents were the one to tell me, the control would be in their court. I would have had no prejudices of any sort and still the world would be just as it was before I was told. If time goes on one can have a slanted concept and, perhaps, believe the nonsense I did.
With all that being so I feel that the earlier a person knows the better. Remember though, and I must use this disclaimer, if you've met one person on the autism spectrum you've only met one person. Each person will handle it differently, young or old, so keep that in mind that just because I feel it should be a certain way doesn't mean it will be the right way 100% of the time. Anyway, if parents have control over how the information is given, and at a early time in life, the child, in my opinion, won't be shattered as I was. Truly I was as it was as if I forgot the person I was up to that point in time and as soon as I read the misinformation on the internet I felt like I had died.
Many times at my presentations I'll hear a parent tell me that they, "wished their upper teenage child would come hear me but they just don't want to acknowledge that they have it." Often times these people were diagnosed later in life and the story sounds much like mine and each time I hear this story it breaks my heart. I was there and it was not a good place. If anything my question I asked last week has kindled up a passion within me like I haven't felt. Don't get me wrong, all that I do now is nothing but passion, but for those diagnosed later in life and told later in life it can seem as if life is over. If anything, my passion now is to say, "it's okay to be on the spectrum" and "you are not alone!"
As one parent told me at a recent presentation, "It is almost needed to have spectrum like traits to be great and change the world." This mom was citing a list she read on the internet of people in history suspected of being on the spectrum. During my months of being in that depression I could have cared less on something like that because I didn't care about anything. As soon as I was coming out of the depression though I did read a similar article and could see that what makes us different can make us great.
So, to finish this up, just as early intervention is important I also feel letting the person know earlier is important too. Perhaps the two go hand in hand, but for a child to know early there will never be that one moment where it feels as if life as they knew it ended. However, not everyone is going to get that early diagnosis and for them, well, that's what is driving me today as with increased awareness and understanding I hope the negative perceptions aren't as prevalent. The more voices we have saying this I hope those that are closed off and are in denial might just read the right information and realize that having Asperger Syndrome is just a trait. I mean, I have blondish colored hair, I'm 6"1, I have greenish hazelish colored eyes (I honestly have no idea what color they are) and I have Asperger Syndrome. It's doesn't define me, but it is a part of me, and I wouldn't change a thing since I now accept who I am. It was a long road to get to this point and I hope more and more people will get to that point because I was once at that polar opposite place and it was not a good place to be in.