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What is acupuncture and how can it help?


The theory and practice of acupuncture originated in China as one of the modalities of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM is one of the world’s oldest medical systems, dating back to 3000 years. Acupuncture has gained popularity over the past 40 years, becoming one of the most widely used forms of complementary and integrative medicine in the United States. Acupuncture's rise in popularity is attributed to its effectiveness for pain relief, and to the fact that scientific studies have begun to prove its efficacy. Today, the World Health Organization recommends acupuncture for the treatment of over 100 different conditions, including mental health.

Acupuncture is a technique in which fine needles are inserted in specific points in the body, ears, and/or scalp to treat health problems. The needles may be manipulated manually or stimulated with small electrical currents. Acupuncture relieves symptoms by stimulating areas of the body responsible for the production of emotion-managing hormones, releasing endorphins (the body's natural pain-killing chemical), and regulating the nervous system.

Most individuals with mental, developmental, physical, cognitive, emotional, learning, and behavioral disabilities present not only symptoms related to their diagnosis, but other symptoms from comorbid conditions (conditions that coexist but develop independently from each other, these can be chronic or temporary). One of the great things about acupuncture is that it can multitask points and treatment strategies. During one session, several symptoms can be addressed at the same time.


The main goal of acupuncture is to recognize each individual’s needs and traits to provide the support needed for optimal health and development. Acupuncture can help embrace other allied health therapies that an individual might be undergoing, such as occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, psychology, counseling, and applied behavioral analysis (ABA).

Acupuncture can help

  • Strengthen cognitive function

  • Improve and stimulate language development

  • Improve motor skills

  • Supports the development of neural pathways

  • Facilitate motor function and coordination

  • Improve sleep

  • Reduce stimming

  • Improve behaviors

  • Improve sensory integration

  • Improve gastrointestinal function

  • Build social skills

  • Improve alertness

  • Improve executive function (set of mental skills that include working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control)

Even though acupuncture requires the use of needles, it is not painful. There is nothing mystical about acupuncture. While it is not entirely clear how acupuncture works, there have been countless studies that demonstrate the effectiveness and researchers continue to explore the possible neurochemical mechanisms of acupuncture. It can be a great tool for the management of chronic conditions as an adjunct therapy to an individual's current plan of care.


Every session looks different from client to client. It is based on an individual’s short-term and long-term goals, as well as needs present at the time of the session. A typical session will consist of a client laying down or sitting down while thin needles are put into various points in the body and stimulated manually or with a small electrical current. Once needles are in place, clients will rest while the needles are retained in place.

For some individuals, resting while retaining the needles is the best approach, but with most children, I perform scalp acupuncture to stimulate specific areas of the brain. In this case, while the needles are retained, I do what I call “dynamic” acupuncture. I engage the child in specific activities based on the neural pathways that I want to strengthen and combine them with the point selection. A session can also involve moxibustion, auriculotherapy (ear seeding), and cupping. Sessions can last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.


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