A number of studies have reported that most individuals with autism have difficulty in attributing mental states. The primary aim of the present study was to compare the ability of children with autism to refer to knowledge states with that of mainstream school children and children with Down's syndrome. The second aim was to investigate the role of verbal mental age in referring to knowledge states. The third aim was to compare the ease with which the children referred to their own mental state and to that of others. The results suggest that some individuals with autism are able to attribute knowledge to themselves and others but that they need to have higher verbal skills than is necessary in normal individuals. The level of language skill predicted the performance of the individuals with autism, but not that of the children in the other groups. There was no good evidence that referring to one's own mental states was easier than referring to another person's, a finding which supports representational theory rather than the simulationist position.