The Classroom Observation Schedule to Measure Intentional Communication (COSMIC) was devised to provide ecologically valid outcome measures for a communication-focused intervention trial. Ninety-one children with autism spectrum disorder aged 6 years 10 months (SD 16 months) were videoed during their everyday snack, teaching and free play activities. Inter-rater reliability was high and relevant items showed significant associations with comparable items from concurrent Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule—Generic (Lord et al. 2000, J Autism Dev Disord 30(3):205–223) assessments. In a subsample of 28 children initial differences in rates of initiations, initiated speech/vocalisation and commenting were predictive of language and communication competence 15 months later. Results suggest that the use of observational measures of intentional communication in natural settings is a valuable assessment strategy for research and clinical practice.