Children with autism seem quite able of formulating imperative requests. However, these children almost completely lack gestures used for declarative purposes, to share with others interest in and attention to some object or event. A previous research on normal infants shows a developmental sequence in which the imperative function of pointing gesture emerges earlier than the declarative function. This result is consistent with the view that the two functions of pointing underlye different social-cognitive skills. The present study longitudinally investigates the use of imperative and declarative pointing gestures in three children with autism ranging in age from 25 to 53 months at the first observation. The results show that the imperative pointing was easy for these children and emerged earlier in all of them; declarative pointing emerged later in two subjects and was completely absent in one child. The absence of declarative pointing in toddlers is proposed as an useful diagnostic indicator for early detection of autism.