Acupuncture for Autism Language Development
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder with origins that is not fully understood. It is a condition that affects communication, development, behaviour and social skills.
The presenting patterns differ from person to person but can include deficits in social communication and interaction, repetitive behaviours, interests or activities, learning disability and inability to process others emotions.
Conventional treatments have limitations
ASD has no definitive cure. However there are many treatments that are available to target the manifestation of this neurodevelopmental disorder. Conventional treatments include medication and behavioral therapy.
Medications such as risperidone, an antipsychotic class of drugs is used to treat aggressive, explosive and irritable behaviour in autism(1). But that comes with unwanted side effects such as weight gain, fatigue, drowsiness and tremors(2). Behavioral therapies are also limited in that it requires 20-40 hours of treatment per week and take a long time to show benefits(2).
Alternative medicine for neurodevelopmental disorders
There is an increase in the use of Acupuncture as part of treatment programs for children with developmental disorders. Particularly in China, the birthplace of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. Which prompted collaboration and scientific research between the Western countries and China.
Acupuncture treatments for neurodevelopmental disorders are modified based on the individual patient and their response. It can also be combined with conventional treatments and Chinese Herbal Medicine for maximal benefit.
The physiological effects of Acupuncture are all throughout the body, specifically for ASD the changes that Acupuncture creates are anti-inflammatory and targeting the central nervous system(3).
How Acupuncture can assist with language development in children with autism
Some other therapies target behaviour, social interactions, emotions but Neuro-Acupuncture works in the central nervous system and the brain directly with Scalp Acupuncture in order to help to regulate emotions, behaviour, development etc. It is more like an inside out treatment instead of outside in.
Scalp Acupuncture can stimulate the release of neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters are signals in the brain that form pathways for neural activities such as communication(4). Research shows many chemical changes in the brain in response to specific Acupuncture points, resulting in improved learning and memory.
The different Acupuncture areas on the scalp are drawn based on the functional areas of the cerebral cortex that lie beneath the scalp. For example the auditory speech area that is needled correlates to the language processing centre of the brain. So Acupuncture at these specific areas stimulates the activity of the corresponding brain function(4).
Functional MRI scans show activation of these areas on the brain and brainstem during Acupuncture in humans(3). And contributes to the improvement in language function in children.
The reported improvements among the studies include better language communication function”
– Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Journal
Acupuncture can also work with other allied health therapies such as Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy, Psychologist and Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) Therapy. In fact Neuro-Acupuncture can help children with autism to respond better and faster, resulting in a ‘breakthrough’ with their other therapies.
- Ba, 2021. Drugs & Medications. [online] Webmd.com. Available at: <https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-6283-2034/risperidone-oral/risperidone-oral/details> [Accessed 13 January 2021].
- Lee, B., Lee, J., Cheon, J., Sung, H., Cho, S. and Chang, G., 2018. The Efficacy and Safety of Acupuncture for the Treatment of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2018, pp.1-21.
- Ming, X., Chen, X., Wang, X., Zhang, Z., Kang, V. and Zimmerman-Bier, B., 2012. Acupuncture for Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Journal,.
- Yau, C., Ip, C. and Chau, Y., 2018. The therapeutic effect of scalp acupuncture on natal autism and regressive autism. Chinese Medicine, 13(1).