Abstract Autistic children have severe problems in acquiring language. For this reason, special techniques have been developed to teach them speech and sign language. It is not known, however, whether these children will profit more from speech or sign training. The research literature implies that verbal imitative ability may predict language learning characteristics particularly in the speech modality. In view of this possibility, two groups of autistic children—good versus poor verbal imitators—were studied within the context of a receptive label acquisition task. Good imitators acquired receptive speech whereas poor imitators typically did not. Both groups acquired receptive signs. The results were discussed in terms of the role that imitative ability may play with respect to language acquisition in this population.