Language acquisition research in autism has traditionally focused on high-level pragmatic deficits. Few studies have examined grammatical abilities in autism, with mixed findings. The present study addresses this gap in the literature by providing a detailed investigation of syntactic and higher-level discourse abilities in verbal children with autism, age 5 years. Findings indicate clear language difficulties that go beyond what would be expected based on developmental level; specifically, syntactic delays, impairments in discourse management and increased production of non-meaningful words (jargon). The present study indicates a highly specific pattern of language impairments, and importantly, syntactic delays, in a group of children with autism carefully matched on lexical level and non-verbal mental age with children with developmental delays and typical development.