BACKGROUND There is a major gap between the US and most European countries regarding the implementation of early intensive behavioural intervention (EIBI) for children with autism. The present paper reports on the current status of EIBI in Switzerland and on the effectiveness of EIBI under clinical conditions in a Swiss pilot project. METHODS The paper combines a narrative report of the care system for children with autism in Switzerland and an initial evaluation of EIBI as implemented in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Zurich. RESULTS The current situation of the implementation of EIBI for children with autism in Switzerland is characterized by marked deficits in its acceptance. Major reasons include insufficient governmental approval and lacking legal and financial support. In addition, ignorance among health care providers and educational professionals has contributed to this situation precluding that children with autism receive the most beneficial assistance. The authors have initiated and been working in an intervention centre offering EIBI for a decade and report on their experience with the implementation of EIBI. Based on their clinical practice, they document that EIBI also works efficiently under ordinary mental health service conditions. CONCLUSIONS EIBI needs to be implemented more intensively in Switzerland. Although the effects of EIBI as implemented in Zurich are promising, the results are not as pronounced as under controlled research conditions.