I've been a member of the late talker group for a few weeks now. The syllogism that provides the foundation for the group philosophy is: (i) autistic children are generally retarded and know little about human nature; (ii) their children are intelligent and relate to humans; (iii) therefore, their children aren't autistic. The group counsels its members on how to dodge the diagnosis, likening the push to diagnose and diagnose early as a witch-hunt.
I categorically reject the syllogism. As neuroscience is beginning to demonstrate and as high functioning autistics have been blogging, individuals with ASDs are often much more intelligent than people give them credit for. Tests that rely heavily on language don't sufficiently measure their intellectual capabilities.
That having been said, I'm not sure that there's any harm in the late talker group. The parents hold their children in high regard intellectually, in spite of their developmental delays. Are the children handicapped by their parents' insistence that they're not autistic? My sense is they're not. The late talker group advocates Floortime and other "naturalistic" methods of teaching language. So while I disagree with the philosophy, I think the end result is generally positive.
Update: In the spirit of peace, I've deleted the portions of this post.
Update #2, January 14, 2010: I'm adding an update because I noticed an uptick in traffic for search terms like "late talker and denial". I originally authored this post almost two years ago. Here's what I think now: The line between autistic and not autistic is blurry at best; science has yet to explicate what autism actually is. A parent should be able to contemplate that their child is autistic without being castigated, or worse yet, being met with a chorus of "don't give up". Autism is not a scarlet letter. It refers to neurological difference that impairs communication and social skill. In many cases, it also engenders strength and talent. As for the group, dodging doctors and getting mad at the world for observing the obvious is not healthy. Nor is relying upon groupthink (with strong censorship) for medical advice. And speaking of censorship, the lack of a tolerance of criticism or even diversity of ideas is a clear indication of how weak their own ideas are. Strong ideas can withstand scrutiny. Theirs cannot.