The plasma amino acid profiles of 36 children with autism spectrum disorders were reviewed to determine the impact of diet on amino acid patterns. Ten of the children were on gluten and casein restricted diets administered by parents, while the other 26 consumed unrestricted diets. No amino acid profile specific to autism was identified. However, children with autism had more essential amino acid deficiencies consistent with poor protein nutrition than an age/gender matched control group. There was a trend for children with autism who were on restricted diets to have an increased prevalence of essential amino acid deficiencies and lower plasma levels of essential acids including the neurotransmitter precursors tyrosine and tryptophan than both controls and children with autism on unrestricted diets. These data indicate that larger, more focused studies of protein nutrition in children with autism are needed in order to determine the extent to which restricted diets might place the developing brains of children with autism at risk from protein malnutrition. The high rate of tryptophan and tyrosine deficiency in this group is also of concern given their role as neurotransmitter precursors.