Children on the spectrum, like any other children, can have a whole range of cognitive abilities. Many children diagnosed with ASD are very bright, or gifted. They may have an exceptional vocabulary and speak in sentences that sound mature for their age. They may have particular talents that match their interests and they can perform at an above-age level in an area.
A diagnosis can be a very difficult thing for parents to accept, particularly if their understanding of a disorder is influenced by media. The media has certainly picked up on Autism Spectrum Disorder in the last decade or so, and there are almost limitless books and films depicting people with autism. ASD has also received a much higher profile in the community, as well as attracting specific funding.