Sixteen autistic, 16 normal and 16 Down syndrome children (aged 3-6 years) were observed with their mother and a female stranger in a laboratory playroom. Proximity and sociable behaviours were recorded continuously during three observation sessions. The autistic children showed behaviours indicating that they were clearly attached to their mothers: like the normal and Down syndrome children, they showed all behaviours preferentially to the mother and directed proximity behaviours almost exclusively to her. These attachments were functionally similar to those of the comparison children. The deficits identified in the autistic group were restricted to a set of behaviours which have to do with social interaction such as Show, Give and Mutual Play. Descriptions of the aloof, unattached autistic child were not confirmed.