Let me tell you a story about a young brother and sister.
There once were two young children, a brother and a sister, who hardly ever tried new foods. Their parents brought them to a seafood restaurant, and while there, the father offered a bowl of circular French Fries to his children. The siblings, loving all forms of fries, began to devour the delicious appetizer at great speed. At some point the sister, though enjoying the meal, noticed a strange texture to the fries, calling them "squishy." The brother noticed this too, but his hunger outpaced his curiosity and he continued to eat. The sister decided to ask her father, "Why are these French Fries so squishy?" Her father victoriously replied, "They're actually squid!" The sister immediately recoiled from the bowl, repulsed at the thought of having eaten something so gross as squid. Her brother, while intrigued by this revelation, continued to eat.
Like many stories, this one has many levels. On the surface, it's actually a true story, I being the brother and my sister being the... well, you can guess. On yet another level, it's funny because it's a real-life occurrence of a situation often played out in sitcoms. On a further level still, it is an allegory meant to highlight a fear that I imagine many parents have over telling their children that they have Asperger's.
The food represents life, and the siblings are two people who have received a similar lot: Asperger's (squid, as opposed to fries). One child grows up knowing that something is different, and is concerned by it. Upon realizing that they have Asperger's, they take it as a horrible revelation. They may feel more isolated than before, become withdrawn, and actually succumb to the symptoms of Asperger's more easily.
The other child, however, grows up knowing something is different, and while they may be concerned, they go on with life. Upon realizing they have Asperger's, they accept it as an explanation for the differences and continue on as before. They will work to not succumb to the negative sides of Asperger's, and they will enjoy all the positive sides. They'll still do what they can to socialize, when they want to socialize, and they'll find time to be alone when they want to be alone. It's never easy to have Asperger's, but I don't think life is easy for anyone, regardless of disorders. You just take what life gives you and make the best.
Obviously, every parent wants their child to be the second kind when it comes to telling them they have Asperger's. They may feel, however, that they have no control over that and so they'll wait as long as they can to tell their child. This is a grave mistake. The fact is, parents do have a small amount of control over how their child reacts, and they should utilize it to the fullest extent.
The biggest difference between the siblings in the story above, I think, is age. One child was old enough to have some kind of stigma against squid. The other was young enough to think of squid as squid, and if he had a little stigma, that was wiped away by experience. Parents, don't treat your child's Asperger's like a secret. Let them know while they're still young enough to form their own opinions on what Asperger's means. If you wait until they're older, then their reaction to hearing they have Asperger's will be based on everything they'd heard in school, on TV, and everywhere else about it. And I can almost guarantee you that what they hear is not reassuring. The best way to help your child cope with Asperger's, and really any Autism, is to let them form their own opinion on it before someone forms it for them.
I can't remember the time I first learned I have Asperger's, but I remember that it was a new word for me when I heard it. It explained a lot, and my parents helped to make it clear that Asperger's wasn't a destination, but a direction. It doesn't tell me who I have to be, but it changes the course I'll have to take to get where I want to be. It may not always be easy - but then again, no one has it easy. And knowing all that is why I'm perfectly comfortable saying that I have Asperger's.