Dermatoglyphic comparisons were made among 32 autistic children aged from 4-10 to 18-11; sex-, age-, and IQ-matched retarded children; and sex- and age-matched normal children. Significant differences were found between the autistic and normal children for distribution of dermal patterns and ridge line disruption, but no significant differences were found for the total mean ridge counts or mean ridge count rankings. Apart from the right hand of the autistic children, there were no unusual scores for digital dispersion ratios. Autistic and retarded children differed only in their distribution of dermal patterns, with the autistic children apparently intermediate between retarded and normal groups. These results indicate that conclusions of unique congenital disturbance in the etiology of autism inferred from different dermatoglyphics may be premature, and that dermatoglyphics may be ineffective in delineating autistic children from other atypical populations. © 1979 Plenum Publishing Corporation.