Recent data suggest that a disturbance in the development of joint attention skills is a specific characteristic of young autistic children. This observation may have both theoretical and clinical significance. However, many pertinent issues remain to be addressed with regard to the parameters of joint attention disturbance in children with autism. This study attempted to address several of these issues. The study examines the effects of mental age and IQ on the joint attention skills of children with autism, mental retardation, and normal development. The study also examined the relation of joint attention behaviors to the parent's report of symptoms presented by children with autism. The results suggested that, differences in IQ and mental age may be related to differences in the type of joint attention skill deficits displayed by children with autism. The results also suggested that joint attention disturbance is associated with a circumscribed, but social cluster of symptoms observed among young autistic children by their parents. The implications of these findings for developmental models of autism are discussed.