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Acupuncture for Non-Verbal Autistic Children: Randomized Controlled Trial

Author(s): Wen Xiong Chen, Gang Liu, Hong Sheng Liu, Zhi Fang Huang, Si Yuan Yang, Ju Huang, Si Hui Zeng, Jing Yu Huang, Qian Qian Wu


To study the efficacy, safety, and the alterations of brain neurochemical of short-term acupuncture for children with non-verbal autism spectrum disorder.


Study design: randomized, simple-blind, controlled trial. Non-verbal autistic children were randomly assigned to acupuncture group (n=24) or control group (n=19). The acupuncture group received 20 sessions for two acupoints on head [Temporal Anterior Oblique (MS6) under 2/5 and Temporal Posterior Oblique (MS7) under 2/5] over 4 weeks. Primary outcome measures comprised of Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist (ATEC), Reynell Developmental Language Scale (RDLS), Pediatric Evaluation Disability Inventory (PEDI) and Clinical Global Impression-Improvement (CGI-I) scale. Secondary outcome measures included Gesell Development Diagnosis Scale (GDDS)/ Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence-Fourth edition (WPPSI-IV)/Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Fourth edition (WISC-IV), brain Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS) and Weekly Parental Report.


There were significant ameliorations in the self-care (p=0.045) and self-care assistant (p=0.019) domains of PEDI, and CGI-I (p=0.003) in the acupuncture group, in contrast to control group. The significantly better social initiation (P=0.003), receptive language (p=0.002), pointing (p=0.036), imitation (p=0.025), and motor skills (p=0.036) were also revealed, regarding the Weekly Parental Report. As for the brain MRS, the acupuncture group showed significantly decreased the ratio of Choline /Creatine (p=0.037) at the left grey matter of Inferior frontal gurus and increased the concentrations of Creatine (p=0.036) at the right grey matter of superior temporal gurus. Mild side effects of irritability at initial sessions during acupuncture were found.


A short-term intensive acupuncture for selected points is helpful to improve specific functions of non-verbal autistic children, especially for self-care ability, which may be due to regulating cellular renewal and energy metabolism after acupuncture.

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