Acupuncture and Autism

Autism is on the increase around the world, with current estimates ranging from one in a thousand to one in five hundred children affected. No one knows exactly why the numbers are going up. The old theory of vaccines causing the problem has been largely discounted, while other theories encompassing viruses, antibiotics, nutrition and environmental pollution wax and wane.

Because autism is a baffling and difficult problem to treat, many parents are turning to alternative therapies to try and help their children. The western orthodox approach to treating children with autism has ranged placing them in care to working on improving their social and communication skills. There is no 'cure' as yet for Autism, leading some parents to try alternative therapies for symptomatic relief and possible improvement in the condition of their children. One popular recent approach is acupuncture, even though autism as defined by western medicine is not recognised by Traditional Chinese Medicine.


Anecdotal and preliminary medical evidence suggest that children with autism can benefit from acupuncture. While a cure is not to be expected, acupuncture seems to give symptomatic relief to children.

Acupuncture and Autism

Though it may be a challenging experience for the child and the parents in the beginning, the results seem to suggest that it is helpful in the long run. Traditional acupuncture requires the patient to lay still for long periods, to endure the close contact of a stranger and the invasive insertion of needles, all of which could prove to be exceptionally difficult for a child, particularly one on the severe end of the autistic spectrum. But Paediatric acupuncture addresses some of these issues. Acupuncture for young children doesn't require them to lay still as with adults. It's just a quick prick (with super thin needles) at pressure points. Acupressure is an alternative for those who would prefer a less invasive treatment.

A study was done in the US to observe the effect of acupuncture on the brains of children with autism. The acupuncture treatment was given once every other day, for four months. After acupuncture treatment; of the 22 cases, 20 had remarkable improvement and 2 had significant in cerebral blood flow. Before the treatment there were significant differences in blood flow between the left and right cerebrum and between the left and right frontal lobes, however, after treatment, no differences were found between them

Preliminary clinical trials have been conducted in Hong Kong to establish the effectiveness of tongue acupuncture - a relatively new treatment method that is thought to be particularly effective for children on the autistic spectrum. Traditional acupuncture has been practiced in China for over 5000 years, but tongue acupuncture has developed only over the last two decades.

Based on the traditional Chinese view that the tongue and heart are connected through meridians that spread to all the organs of the body, it is believed that points on the tongue influence the state of the body's organs and it is through this that relief of autism's symptoms occurs.

Most agree that a combined approach to diet and alternative therapies can offer symptomatic relief to suffers of autism, improving mood and communication skills in children. Though it will always be on a scale of improvement, rather than cure.

Acupuncture and Autism

Michael Russell

Your Independent guide to Acupuncture []