Autism is a developmental disorder defined by social and communication impairments. Current theoretical approaches and research studies however conceptualise autism as both static and independent from the social context in which it develops. Two lines of research stand out from this general trend. First, research from the neuroconstructivist approach of Karmiloff-Smith (Hum Brain Mapp 31:934–941, 2010) aims to establish developmental trajectories of cognitive impairments in autism over time. Second, studies from intersubjective approaches such as that of Hobson (The cradle of thought, Macmillan, London, 2002) focus on the influence of emotional engagement in cognitive impairments. Although these two lines of research have made an invaluable contribution towards our understanding of autism, both offer only partial explanations: Intersubjective approaches fail to provide a developmental perspective and the neuroconstructivist model neglects the role of the social context. This paper argues that the nature of autism demands the theoretical and methodological integration of these two approaches so that developmental and social aspects are investigated in tandem.