BACKGROUND: Are persons with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) slower than typically developing individuals to read the meaning of a symbolic cue in a visual orienting paradigm? METHODS: Participants with ASD (n = 18) and performance mental age (PMA) matched typically developing children (n = 16) completed two endogenous orienting conditions in which the cue exposure time and response preparation time were manipulated within a consistent series of cue-target stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs). RESULTS: Participants with ASD displayed facilitation effects at all SOAs, whereas typically developing children displayed facilitation effects only at shorter SOAs. The magnitude of the facilitation effect was greater for the group with ASD at 400ms SOA. Both groups showed similar effects of condition, with similar patterns of facilitation in both conditions. CONCLUSION: Persons with ASD were not slower to read the symbolic cue, as the effect was elicited by brief cues within longer SOAs before target onset. The participants with ASD were also less efficient in using the predictability of the cues to guide responding. The difficulties of participants with ASD on endogenous orienting occur at the response selection level, not the perceptual level.