Autistic, dyslexic and normal readers matched for reading age (RA) were compared on a large range of oral reading tasks. In terms of single word reading autistic children demonstrated intact processing strategies, entirely in keeping with their RA level, while dyslexic children failed on phonological, but not on lexical or semantic processing. With connected prose, the autistic children showed failure in reading for meaning. This failure was traced to a difficulty in using semantic context in the absence of syntactic cues. Dyslexic children showed superior ability in using semantic context relative to their RA level. The reading problems in the two groups can thus be seen as complementary.