Original Paper

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 42, Issue 8, pp 1671-1683

First online:

Acupuncture for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Systematic Review of Randomized Clinical Trials

  • Myeong Soo LeeAffiliated withBrain Disease Research Center, Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine Email author 
  • , Tae-Young ChoiAffiliated withBrain Disease Research Center, Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine
  • , Byung-Cheul ShinAffiliated withSchool of Korean Medicine, Pusan National University
  • , Edzard ErnstAffiliated withComplementary Medicine, Peninsula Medical School, University of Exeter

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This study aimed to assess the effectiveness of acupuncture as a treatment for autism spectrum disorders (ASD). We searched the literature using 15 databases. Eleven randomized clinical trials (RCTs) met our inclusion criteria. Most had significant methodological weaknesses. The studies’ statistical and clinical heterogeneity prevented us from conducting a meta-analysis. Two RCTs found that acupuncture plus conventional language therapy was superior to sham acupuncture plus conventional therapy. Two other RCTs found that acupuncture produced significant effects compared with conventional language therapy or complex interventions. Three RCTs suggested that acupuncture plus conventional therapies had beneficial effects compared with conventional therapy alone. Four more RCTs reported that subjects who received acupuncture experienced significant effects compared with subjects who were waitlisted or received no treatment. The results of these studies provide mixed evidence of acupuncture’s effectiveness as a treatment for ASD symptoms.


Acupuncture Complementary medicine Autism spectrum disorders Effectiveness Systematic review