Nine low-functioning children with profound expressive language impairment and autism were studied in terms of their responsiveness to a computer-based learning program designed to assess syntactic awareness. The children learned to touch words on a screen in the correct sequence in order to see a corresponding animation, such as ‘monkey flies’. The game progressed in levels from 2 to 4 word sequences, contingent upon success at each stage. Although performance was highly variable across participants, a detailed review of their learning profiles suggested that no child lacked syntactic awareness and that elementary syntactic control in a non-speech domain was superior to that manifest in their spoken language. The reasons for production failures at the level of speech in children with autism are discussed.