The special features of speech addressed to autistic children by their mothers and fathers were examined in an effort to clarify how the child's level of functioning influenced parental language style. A total of 12 children, 6 boys and 6 girls, half of whom were higher functioning and verbal and the remainder lower functioning and nonverbal, were videotaped in a 15-minute interaction with their mothers and fathers. The total number of utterances used was comparable for mothers and fathers, but mothers employed shorter mean lengths of utterance and more prompts to elicit speech or motoric activity when their children were lower functioning and nonverbal than when they were higher functioning and verbal. The higher functioning, verbal children were more frequently reinforced for speech, while the lower functioning, nonverbal children were more likely to be given indirect directives. Fathers issued direct directives more frequently than mothers, while mothers were more likely to employ prompts to stimulate their children's speech, particularly when they were lower functioning. Thus, both mothers and fathers of autistic children appear to be sensitive to their child's particular presenting characteristics, but differ in how they accommodate to them.