Find an acupuncturist...

Autism and Acupuncture: For Parent and Practitioner

Autism and Acupuncture: For Parent and Practitioner

By Julian Scott

I saw my first autistic child nearly 40 years ago, and quite honestly, I did not know what to do. There was nothing in either the western or the Chinese literature to give any guidance. I tried one or two things, without avail, and it upsets me to this day that I was unable to help.

Since that time, I have seen many, many more; particularly recently as there has been a huge increase in the number of children diagnosed as autistic. This is partly due to greater awareness of the condition, but it is mainly because there really are many more autistic children.

It can be heartbreaking for the parents to feel so alienated from their own child, and it is very rewarding when you can help parent and child to reconnect. I still get a slight lump in my throat when I think of a time 25 years ago when the mother came in with her four-year-old boy. He had had five or six treatments by then, but he was still pretty hyperactive. This time he was obviously different. There had been a shift in his energy. The mother had a beam on her face as she said: “I had lost my little boy, and now I have got him back.”

I believe that acupuncture, with diet, can be effective in treating autism, but so few people are aware of how wonderful the results can be. There are even many acupuncturists who are largely unaware of how they could potentially help.

Hence, I came to write my book, Autism and Acupuncture: For Parent and Practitioner. When writing it, I had two audiences in mind. First, I wanted to show my fellow practitioners what they could do and how to do it, with enough details so they could actually feel some confidence and be effective.

This part took a lot of time and thought, as there are a number of different styles of acupuncture. Personally, I was raised in the five-element tradition of Dr Van Buren (before he developed stems and branches), but learnt Chinese in order to find out what traditional Chinese medicine really was. I have tried to write in a way that could be understood by practitioners from both these traditions, as well as Japanese-style practitioners.

The other audience was parents. Being a parent myself and a lover of Chinese medicine, I enjoyed this part. Chinese medicine is often portrayed as deeply mystical and esoteric, requiring years of study and deep contemplation of the mysteries of the universe. It is certainly true that an understanding of yin-yang is essential, but the medicine itself is supremely practical and based on everyday experience… like if a child eats too much it gets tummy ache, or if they go to bed late, they are grumpy the next day. Reading some of the ancient Chinese texts, one is struck how children and their diseases are the same now as they were more than a thousand years ago and many thousands of miles away.

Julian Scott is a member of the British Acupuncture Council.


There is a lack of robust evidence on the efficacy of acupuncture to treat autism, however the following papers have been published:

BAcC Factsheets

Research based factsheets have been prepared for over 60 conditions especially for this website

Browse the facts