Having previously worked with kids with autism as a behaviorist, I have a special interest in how acupuncture can help children with the disorder. Whether it is difficulty in responding to their name, hyperactivity, digestive problems, or scripted speech, each child has different issues that need addressing. In my time working in classrooms with children with special needs, I have seen how simple changes such as a fish oil supplement can dramatically improve a child with ADHD focus in class. On the other hand, I have seen the negative effects of a sugar-laden, processed diet on behavior on the ability of kids with autism ability to communicate.
There are relatively few randomized controlled studies on how acupuncture effects children with autism (which speaks more of lack of funding, than effectiveness). Recently (2010) there was a Chinese study through the University of Hong Kong that showed significant improvements in language comprehension after 12 sessions of electro-acupuncture. Per parental report, there were also increases in social initiation, receptive language, motor skills, coordination, and attention span following the course of treatment. Some other studies have focused on tongue acupuncture (which sounds difficult, painful, and too scary for a child with autism who may not understand why it is being done).
One of the many strengths of Chinese medicine is that it can be tailored specifically to each child's body and current symptoms. For some, hyperactivity and moodiness may be the primary issues, or for others it may be lack of language, or anxiety over a changes in routine. Based on those symptoms, a specific group of acupuncture points or herbs are chosen. In addition to behavioral, speech, physical, and occupational therapies, I would encourage parents to look into Chinese Medicine as a part of your child's total wellness plan.
Cheryl House, L. Ac., DACM, FABORM