Although autism has a clear genetic component, the high genetic heterogeneity of the disorder has been a challenge for the identification of causative genes. We used homozygosity analysis to identify probands from nonconsanguineous families that showed evidence of distant shared ancestry, suggesting potentially recessive mutations. Whole-exome sequencing of 16 probands revealed validated homozygous, potentially pathogenic recessive mutations that segregated perfectly with disease in 4/16 families. The candidate genes (UBE3B, CLTCL1, NCKAP5L, ZNF18) encode proteins involved in proteolysis, GTPase-mediated signaling, cytoskeletal organization, and other pathways. Furthermore, neuronal depolarization regulated the transcription of these genes, suggesting potential activity-dependent roles in neurons. We present a multidimensional strategy for filtering whole-exome sequence data to find candidate recessive mutations in autism, which may have broader applicability to other complex, heterogeneous disorders.