April is National Autism Awareness Month, and this is an opportunity to showcase the ways in which Chinese medicine helps to serve different populations. When working with autism spectrum patients many can struggle with speech, touch, and sensory processing. As practitioners, we have many tools to help navigate these aspects of working with autism spectrum patients while providing a comfortable and safe environment in our offices.


Autism spectrum patients may find it difficult to process information quickly to respond to lengthy questioning. Perhaps they may be able to process the questioning and information but find it challenging to communicate appropriate/accurate responses in real time. The beauty of Chinese medicine is the ability to treat someone without requiring them to dive deep into conversation or answer questions to check off the symptom/presentation needed to write a formal diagnosis, which may be the case in a western medical setting. If a patient struggles with verbal communication or they are nonverbal but read or write and consent to treatment, there are tools at our disposal to use for intake. This includes pulse diagnosis, tongue diagnosis, facial reading, and channel palpation. These tools all provide great diagnostic insight of the patient's current pathology. Utilizing pulse and tongue diagnosis has been a great way to form a diagnosis and treatment plan without requiring an autism spectrum patient to verbally communicate in depth responses if they prefer not to or are unable to. As a practitioner treating autism spectrum patients, I will still communicate with the patient what I am going to do and ensure an appropriate form of consent prior to placing my hands on their wrist for pulse diagnosis or any kind of physical touch, just as I would for all my patients. Physical cues for consent could be the patient rolling up their sleeves/bottom of pant leg, extending their arms out on the table or a head nod. The patient may also have a notebook where they write responses and consent to treatment.