Autism is considered a spectrum disorder by standard medicine, meaning that different patients of this one disorder can exhibit a variety of seemingly unrelated symptoms.
Given different names, these include “classic” autism, Rett syndrome, Asperger syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (atypical autism). ASD may show such secondary symptoms as aggression, hyperactivity, negativism, irritability, stereotypies (involuntary but seemingly purposeful movement), temper tantrums, volatile emotions, short attention span and obsessive-compulsive behavior.
In short, Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are characterized by impairment in social interaction, impairment in communication and lack of flexibility of thought and behavior.
While the cause(s) of autism are still not fully understood, the Autism Society of America believes genetics is a major factor in this condition.
How Autism is Usually Treated
- Behavioral training and management using positive reinforcement, self-help, and social skills training
- Speech, occupational, and physical therapy
- Medicines to treat related conditions and problem behaviors, including depression, anxiety, hyperactivity, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors
- People with autism seem to be more susceptible to allergies and food sensitivities, suggesting that they avoid preservatives, food coloring, artificial flavorings and emulsifiers.
- Acupuncture is one of the most common treatments for Autism in China.
How Acupuncture Helps
ASD is believed, in part, a neuroendocrine dysfunction. This results in the incorrect production of opioids. Acupuncture affects opioids, the central nervous system and neuroendocrine function. Acupuncture also is known to help patients deal with anxiety and frustration, which often is seen in ASD patients.
Recent Studies in Acupuncture Treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorder
Few studies in Acupuncture treatment for ASD have yet been conducted in the West.
A 2012 group of 17 Chinese studies on children, using comparison treatment groups, showed that acupuncture resulted in greater improvements than behavioral therapy-treatments, Chinese herbal treatments, music treatment, or Chinese massage treatments. The reported improvements included better language communication function and/or social interaction, reduction of repetitive behaviors, and improvements in fine motor skills, self-care, and/or cognitive function.
A 12-month follow-up of the 30 patients in one of the groups showed continued improvement or preserved improvements in 80% of these ASD patients.
Other Chinese studies have shown improvements in social initiation, motor skills, receptive language, coordination, and attention span. Better walking posture, speed of walking, and ability to ascend and descend stairs also have been noted.
It Should Be Noted
Because autism spectrum disorders show such varied symptoms, it is possible that some subgroups will not respond well to acupuncture. As few as 12 treatments usually will answer this question for any given patient.
Acupuncture Helps Children with Autism – New Research, 30 October 2010 (http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2012/679845/)