Scalp acupuncture effect on language development in children with autism: a pilot study.
J Altern Complement Med. 2008 Mar;14(2):109-14. PMID: 18315511
BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that manifests in delays in social interaction, language used in social communication, and symbolic or imaginative play, with an onset prior to age 3 years. Language therapy (LT) for children with autism is the main form of rehabilitation, because it emphasizes its major presenting symptom (i.e., language impairment). Scalp acupuncture (scalp AP) is a modality based on the physiologic function of different brain areas, where different scalp zones are stimulated with needles so as to stimulate the reflexively related nervous tissue. This study aimed to evaluate the role of scalp AP as a complementary modality to LT in rehabilitation of children with autism. SUBJECTS AND DESIGN: The study involved 20 children (divided into 2 equal groups: A and B), diagnosed as autistic according to DSM IV classification. Their ages ranged between 4 and 7 years old. All subjects underwent LT twice weekly, aiming at stimulation of cognitive and verbal abilities. Group B only was subjected to scalp AP sessions--twice weekly--as a rehabilitation complementary tool during the 9-month period of the study. The acupoints used were: Du 20, 26, GV17; three temple needles; and Yamamoto's New Scalp Acupuncture cerebrum and aphasia points (acupuncture needles 0.3 x 30 mm). A language test was performed before and after therapy to monitor cognition and expression (an Arabic test was included). RESULTS: Both groups, whose mean age range was 5.5 years+/-1.22 years, showed a significant improvement in cognitive and expressive language skills pre- and post-therapy, which was highly significant among group B children treated with scalp AP (attention 2.8+/-0.8 in group A versus 3.5+/-0.8 in group B; receptive semantics were 7+/-3.8 in group A versus 9.4+/-3.1 in group B). Expressive semantics significantly improved in both groups. CONCLUSIONS: Scalp AP is a safe complementary modality when combined with LT and has a significantly positive effect on language development in children with autism.