If your child has autism, you have probably visited countless doctors and other practitioners in an attempt to improve his or her symptoms. Unfortunately, the success of a particular treatment varies from child to child. While behavioral training and medication may be helpful for one child, those therapies may not have the same effect on another child. Acupuncture offers another approach to autism treatment. Best of all, it’s completely natural.

What is Acupuncture?

Thousands of years ago, Chinese medical practitioners developed a new way of treating illnesses by unblocking Qi, a life force that runs through your body. Physical symptoms, such as pain or inflammation, can occur when Qi becomes blocked. When the practitioners placed thin needles in the body at sites that corresponded to the blockages, symptoms improved. Today, practitioners use acupuncture to treat a variety of illnesses, diseases and conditions, ranging from neck pain to depression to high blood pressure.

How Can Acupuncture Help?

Autism spectrum symptoms fall under the category of the Syndrome of Five Delays in Chinese medicine. These delays include speech, walking, standing, teeth eruption, and hair growth. Acupuncture treatment often focuses on the heart, spleen, and kidney, since it’s believed these organ systems govern awareness and reason. Although these areas are targeted, needles are often placed in other parts of the body that correspond to each area.

Does Acupuncture Work?

Several studies have shown that acupuncture can relieve autism spectrum symptoms. A group of Chinese researchers discovered that scalp acupuncture, when combined with music therapy and structured education, enhanced language ability, intelligence, and social adaptive ability.

Another group of researchers reported positive results in the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medical Sciences. They studied 21 autistic boys ranging in age from 3 to 16. After receiving tongue acupuncture treatments daily for eight weeks, the boys scored higher in speech and cognition.

Some researchers believe that acupuncture works by changing endocrinological signals, immunological markers, and neurotransmitters that send messages from brain to the body.

Will My Child Cooperate?

You may be surprised at how well your child adapts to acupuncture treatment, even if he or she usually objects to any type of medical treatment. Needles are usually placed in the child’s scalp, as this area relates to the speech and sensory areas of the brain. Tongue acupuncture can also be used. If this method is used, needles usually only remain in the tongue for seconds.

Acupuncture needles are very thin and produce little or no pain or discomfort. When acupuncture needles are placed in other parts of the body, patients must usually lie down during treatments. Because needles are often placed in the scalp to treat autism spectrum disorders, your child can move around during treatment, which makes the process a much more pleasant experience for everyone. Initially, your child may need treatments several times per week for 30 minutes or less. Eventually, fewer treatments may be needed to maintain results.

Do Acupuncture Practitioners Offer Other Therapies?

Acupuncture practitioners consider the whole person, not just a set of symptoms. Your practitioner may also offer information about lifestyle and dietary changes you can make that may help improve your child’s symptoms.

Are you interested in learning more about acupuncture treatments for autism? Why not call us to schedule a consultation.


Pacific College of Oriental Medicine: Autism Treatment Through Traditional Chinese Medicine


Acupuncture Today: Scalp Acupuncture May Help Children with Autism, 7/08


Journal of Traditional Chinese Medical Sciences: Randomized Control Trial of Using Tongue Acupuncture in Autism Spectrum Disorder, 7/1/14


PubMed: Treatment of Autism with Scalp Acupuncture, 8/31/11


Acupuncture.com: Autism Treatment by Scalp Acupuncture, 5/08


WebMD: Gluten-Free, Casein-Free Diets for Autism


Balanced Meridian

What is the Autism Diet?

Dietary changes can improve symptoms for some people on the autism spectrum. One of the most popular diets is the gluten-free, casein-free diet, commonly called the Autism Diet.

Eliminating Gluten and Casein

All foods that contain gluten and casein must be eliminated from your child’s diet, including:

  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Milk
  • Dairy Products
  • How Does the Diet Work?

The Autism Diet was developed based on the theory that children on the autism spectrum have sensitivities or allergies to casein and wheat. When they eat foods that contain these substances, they may react differently than people who do not have autism. Consuming casein and wheat may worse symptoms associated with autism, but following the diet may actually improve speech and cognitive and social behaviors.

How Effective is the Diet?

Not much research has been conducted on the effects of the Autism Diet yet. Since eliminating gluten and casein will not hurt your child, following the diet may be worth a try, even if allergy testing does not reveal a gluten allergy. If you do not notice any results after using the diet for a month or two, you can always stop the diet. Your child’s acupuncture practitioner can provide advice on implementing and following the Autism Diet and make other dietary suggestions that may help relieve or reduce your child’s symptoms.