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Front Page > Science and Technology


Monday 25 June, 2001

Tongue Acupuncture In Children With Autistic Spectrum Disorder

Acupuncture And Autism

Tongue acupuncture can improve the lives of children with autism, according to scientists from Hong Kong.

Speaking recently at the World Congress of Neurology in London, the researchers claim that it can make children calmer and more stable, making it easier for them to learn and look after themselves. BBC Science reports.

Toothpick and Tongue

Acupuncture dates from several millennia back in Chinese history; tongue acupuncture by contrast is just a couple of decades old but is becoming increasingly popular in Hong Kong.

Based on traditional methods of acupuncture, where needles are used to stimulate pressure points on the body, therefore releasing blocked energy or Qi, recipients of tongue acupuncture have described the sensation as similar to being ¡¥pricked with a toothpick¡¦.

Researchers now see the tongue as an attractive thing to stick their needles in because it's full of nerves, and in recent years scientists have produced hints that it might help people recover after a stroke.

However this is the first time that the potential of tongue acupuncture and autism has been explored.

What Is Autism?

Autism is a developmental disorder that affects the way a person communicates and interacts with
other people.

This means that in many cases, autistic children have problems with social interaction, and problems with verbal and non-verbal communication. This can also lead to low IQ scores.

Nobody really knows what causes autism. However, it is thought that genetic factors are likely to play a crucial role.

Research has also linked the condition with a variety of conditions affecting brain development which occur before, during, or very soon after birth.

Acupuncture And Autism

According to the scientists at The University Of Hong Kong, the new research aims to ¡¥improve the overall functional dependence in ASD children by tongue acupuncture.¡¦

Dr Virginia Wong, who led the investigators, recently told the World Congress of Neurology that the treatment helps autistic children lead a more normal life.

She says children who are hyperactive or aggressive have become calmer and emotionally stable after acupuncture treatment.

The holistic acupuncture treatment was carried out on a control group of 30 children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder. According to the researchers, after a period of treatment, teachers who were blind to the study, found:

¡¥Improvement in children in terms of behaviour, communication skills and also higher intelligent quotient, have more imagination ¡V draw better, more coherence in their composition and writing up of stories and become more initiative.¡¦

Dr Wong believes that tongue acupuncture treats the symptoms of autism, rather than autism itself, but doctors at the Congress said that if her results can be replicated, tongue acupuncture could potentially become a standard treatment in years to come.

 Autism And School Exclusion

A report published by the National Autistic Society (NAS) in 2000 claimed that children with autism and Asperger Syndrome are 20 times more likely to be excluded from school than their classmates.

The report states that one in five pupils with the conditions are excluded at least once, compared with an estimated 1.2% of the total pupil population.

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Internet Sites

Acupuncture offers hope for brain disorders

World Congress In Neurology

British Acupuncture Council

National Autistic Society

Acupuncture Cures Dental Gagging

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