BACKGROUND AND AIMS:
This paper aimed to evaluate the use of nonpharmacological interventions for the management of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The effects of acupuncture and behavioural therapy, two nonpharmalogical interventions, on social function in ASD patients are still controversial. This meta-analysis investigated the impact of these two treatments and compared their effects.
Seven electronic databases were systematically searched to identify randomized controlled trials (RCTs) on the use of acupuncture or behavioural therapy for ASD. A meta-analysis was carried out using Review Manager 5.4 software. Continuous data are reported as mean differences (MDs) or standardized mean differences (SMDs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs). An assessment of methodological quality using the Cochrane risk-of-bias (ROB) tool for trials was carried out. The Grading of Recommendation Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) was applied to evaluate the quality (certainty) of evidence for results regarding social function indicators.
Thirty RCTs on acupuncture and 36 on behavioural therapy were included. Compared with the control condition, body acupuncture (SMD: 0.76, 95% CI: [0.52, 1.01]; low certainty), modern acupuncture technology (SMD: 0.84, 95% CI: [0.32, 1.35]; low certainty), cognitive behavioural therapy (SMD: 0.42, 95% CI: [0.26, 0.58]; high certainty), the Denver model (SMD: 0.61, 95% CI: [0.23, 0.99]; moderate certainty) and social skills training (SMD: 0.56, 95% CI: [0.41, 0.71]; moderate certainty) improved social functioning.
Behavioural therapies (such as CBT, the Denver model, social skills training), improved the social functioning of patients with ASD in the short and long term, as supported by high- and moderate-quality evidence. Acupuncture (including scalp acupuncture, body acupuncture and use of modern acupuncture technology) also improved social functioning, as supported by low- and very low-quality evidence. More high-quality evidence is needed to confirm the effect of acupoint catgut embedding and Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention (EIBI).
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