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Tongue acupuncture is having a remarkable effect on a Dunedin 6-year-old.
Since travelling to Hong Kong in August for the treatment, Sinclair May has become more alert, enunciates his words more clearly and has greater comprehension, his father Jason said.
''His teacher says it's like someone has flicked a switch. Before, you would have to ask him something five times. Now, it's just once and he'll understand.''
Mr May and his wife were pleased they had tried the unconventional treatment and hoped it would help others with a variety of different ailments.
Sinclair had an undiagnosed chromosome defect resulting in delayed development.
He struggled to speak and could not voice full sentences.
The St Francis Xavier School pupil was the first New Zealander to be treated by Prof Sun Jie Gung at the Hong Kong International Tongue Acupuncture Research Clinic.
Prof Sun trained as a doctor in Western medicine before studying traditional Chinese medicine, and developed tongue acupuncture in the 1980s, finding more than 40 acupuncture points on the tongue.
It has since been used for neurological, cardiovascular, and endocrine diseases.
Mr May said Sinclair had three short sessions of acupuncture six days a week during the five and a-half weeks they were in Hong Kong - 92 sessions in total.
Mr May volunteered to have an acupuncture session first, to reassure Sinclair and to feel for himself what his son would be going through.
''It's not painful, it's a tingling feeling. Sinclair was great, he didn't cry and he took to everything over there like a duck to water.''
Mr May felt the trip was worthwhile.
Including treatment, it cost about $15,000, and many people helped generate money for the trip through fundraising.
''We are really happy with the outcome. A lot more sounds are coming out, he's not babbling, his word use is clearer and he's more alert and switched on in general.''
Sinclair now slept through the night, whereas before the acupuncture he would wake at least once.
He was also now using signals to indicate he needed the toilet.
Mr May said they were small, subtle changes but they made a huge difference.
Sinclair was expected to make further progress over the coming months and years.
''Prof Sun said things would slowly start to unravel as the brain responded to the acupuncture. He said to touch base again when Sinclair was 10 years old, because a lot will happen between now and then.''