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J Altern Complement Med. 2010 May;16(5):545-53. doi: 10.1089/acm.2007.0768.

Randomized controlled trial of acupuncture versus sham acupuncture in autism spectrum disorder.

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Division of Child Neurology/Developmental Pediatrics/Neurohabilitation, Department of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China.



We aim to study the efficacy of acupuncture versus sham acupuncture in children with autism spectrum disorder.


A single-blind randomized control trial was conducted in 50 children. These children were randomly assigned to the treatment group with tongue acupuncture (40 sessions over 8 weeks) or the control group (sham tongue acupuncture to nonacupoints in the tongue).


There was improvement in both the treatment and control groups in all assessed measures but more so in the treatment than in the control group: (1) eye-hand coordination, performance, and practical reasoning of Griffiths Mental Developmental Scale; (2) sensory-motor, social, affectual, language, and total score of Ritvo-Freeman Real Life Scale; (3) Comprehension Language age in the Reynell Language Developmental Scale; and (4) Total Score and Mental Age in Symbolic Play Test. The only statistically significant improvement in the treatment as compared to the control group was seen in self-care and cognition domains of the Functional Independence Measure for children.


We had demonstrated that a short course of acupuncture had efficacy in improving various developmental and behavioral aspects of children with autism. The long-term efficacy in functional gain needs to be further explored.

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