A short course of electro-acupuncture (EA) can improve specific functions in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), especially language comprehension and self-care ability. Fifty-five children with ASD were randomly assigned to an EA group or a sham electro-acupuncture (SEA) group. The EA group received electro-acupuncture at eight acupoints: Sishencong (M-HN-1), Yintang (M-HN-3), Neiguan P-6, Shenmen HE-7, Taichong LIV-3, Sanyinjiao SP-6 and the ear points Naodian and Shenmen. The SEA group received sham electro-acupuncture at sham acupoints 3-5 mm from the selected acupoints used for the EA group. Both groups received a total of 12 sessions over four weeks. At the end of the treatment period the acupuncture group showed significant improvements in language comprehension and self-care scores. Parental reports also showed that the EA group demonstrated significantly better social initiation, receptive language, motor skills, coordination and attention span than the SEA group. (Randomized controlled trial of electro-acupuncture for autism spectrum disorder. Altern Med Rev. 2010 Jul;15(2):136-46).
Another study (carried out by the same lead author) found that a short course of tongue acupuncture was able to improve various developmental and behavioural parameters in children with autism. Fifty children with ASD were randomly assigned to either a treatment group, which received tongue acupuncture, or a control group, which received sham tongue acupuncture at non-acupoints. Both groups received 40 treatment sessions over eight weeks. The results showed improvement in both treatment and control groups in all assessed measures, although improvement was greater in the treatment group. Self-care and cognition scores were significantly improved in the treatment group compared with the control group. (Randomized controlled trial of acupuncture versus sham acupuncture in autism spectrum disorder. J Altern Complement Med. 2010 May;16(5):545-53)