Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental condition, and little is known about its neurobiology. Much of autism research has focused on the social, communication and cognitive difficulties associated with the condition. However, the recent revision of the diagnostic criteria for autism has brought another key domain of autistic experience into focus: sensory processing. Here, we review the properties of sensory processing in autism and discuss recent computational and neurobiological insights arising from attention to these behaviours. We argue that sensory traits have important implications for the development of animal and computational models of the condition. Finally, we consider how difficulties in sensory processing may relate to the other domains of behaviour that characterize autism.