The results of two studies designed to investigate the short- and long-term stability of autistic children's responsiveness to displays of negative emotions in others are reported here. In the first study we measured the attention and behavioural responses of 22 autistic children to another's distress about a year and a half after initial assessments in a similar situation. In the second study, the children were re-assessed in two affective contexts over 5 years after initial testing. Individual differences in early responses to affect predicted affective responsiveness at each follow-up. Emotional responsiveness was positively associated with concurrent cognitive skills at each point of assessment. Furthermore, autistic children discriminated between affective and non-affective contexts when this discrimination was tested at the second follow-up.