Thirty-five children with autistic disorder and 17 with autistic-like conditions underwent an exhaustive neurobiological evaluation, and the findings were contrasted with those obtained from various comparison groups. Almost 90 per cent of the children with autistic disorder and autistic-like conditions had major indications of brain damage or dysfunction. Some of those who did not show such abnormalities had a first-degree relative with Asperger syndrome. The rate of abnormality was similar to that of severely mentally retarded children, but in excess of that of normal children. Within the autism group, abnormality rate did not correlate with degree of mental retardation. It is concluded that autism has multiple biological aetiologies and that autistic symptoms in a child should always prompt a thorough medical/neurobiological evaluation.