This study compares outcomes of early intervention programs for young children with autism; an individualised home-based program (HB), a small group centre-based program for children combined with a parent training and support group (CB) and a non-treatment comparison group (WL). Outcome measures of interest include social and communication skill development in children, quality of life and stress for parents. Eligible (diagnosed ASD, preschool age) participants were randomised into 2 groups HB (n = 28) and CB (n = 28). A WL (n = 29) comparison group was also recruited. HB and CB groups had 12-month programs. Pre and post assessments were conducted using formal and informal measures. Children in the CB group improved significantly more than HB and WL groups on some social and communication measures. On parent measures outcomes varied with CB group parents making the most gains in perception of competence and quality of life. The small group centre-based program combined with parent program resulted in the best most cost effective outcomes for children and families however this is not an option for all. The CB program did not suit some children and families. The heterogeneity of the autism population indicates that a range of intervention options is necessary to meet the needs of children with autism and their families.