The study examined developmental changes in autistic symptoms retrospectively in a sample of 28 verbal children and adolescents with autism. Individuals with Asperger syndrome, PDD-NOS, and related medical conditions were not included in the study. We compared autistic symptoms present at the retrospective assessment and during the 4- to 5-year age period using the ADI-R. Our findings revealed a significant improvement in the three domains relevant for the diagnosis of autism, independent of age or IQ level. Improvement occurred in more symptoms from the social than the communication domain, and for more symptoms from the latter than the restricted interest and repetitive behavior domains. The finding that improvement was not linked to level of functioning and was found in individuals still positive for a diagnosis of autism suggests that improvement belongs to the 'natural history' of the handicap.