Verbal skills were assessed at approximately ages 2, 3, 5, and 9 years for 206 children with a clinical diagnosis of autism (n = 98), pervasive developmental disorders-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS; n = 58), or nonspectrum developmental disabilities (n = 50). Growth curve analyses were used to analyze verbal skills trajectories over time. Nonverbal IQ and joint attention emerged as strong positive predictors of verbal outcome. The gap between the autism and other 2 groups widened with time as the latter improved at a higher rate. However, there was considerable variability within diagnostic groups. Children with autism most at risk for more serious language impairments later in life can be identified with considerable accuracy at a very young age, while improvement can range from minimal to dramatic.