The Springs Unit – Low Secure Mental Health with Autism Spectrum Disorder

The Springs Unit is a 16-bed specialist mental health service for adult males with Autism Spectrum Disorder. We provide a person-centred approach to health care in a centre of excellence, providing a low secure rehabilitative environment to facilitate the safe and effective management of service users with behavioural problems.

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The service is closely linked with the Springs Wing which acts as a ‘step-down’ facility from the Springs Unit. The Springs Unit is registered on the National Autistic Society (NAS) Directory.


The aim of the service is to help service users better understand their condition and to support them in ways which will help them prepare for more time in the community, and a move to the least possible restrictive environment for them.

The Springs Unit uses an extended behavioural modification model of care. As the first step in developing a treatment programme, the Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) will work with a service user to comprehensively assess their strengths and their difficulties. This involves a full diagnostic assessment alongside assessing symptoms, risks and needs.

The team use functional analysis to assess any behavioural challenges including looking at when these occur and under which circumstances. The team can then work with the service user to generate theories about what function the behaviour has for the individual and identify the maintaining factors. Specific interventions for the individual can then be designed and tested including pharmacological, psychological, rehabilitative, or social. On-going testing and monitoring can help establish whether the intervention is helping and adjustments can be made as necessary.

Care involves family and significant others to help with re-integration into the community. All staff, not just clinically focused roles, are trained in understanding autism, helping create an understanding and supportive environment for all service users no matter who they are engaging with.


A full daily programme is important for service users at the Springs Unit, and personal choice and options are at the fore of each person’s own individual timetable.

Whilst the service is low secure, there is an emphasis on rehabilitation, so wherever possible service users are supported to enjoy activities in the community.

Activities include cinema visits, ten-pin bowling, visits to local attractions including Wembley Stadium and RAF Museum, fishing, local walks and golf. Service users use the local cafe and restaurants, leisure centre, art galleries and parks. If there is a specific interest or activity anyone would like to enjoy, staff can facilitate this. There are also educational and employment opportunities for service users.


Space is paramount for this service user group and the Springs Unit is laid out with this in mind. The Unit is set over two floors and includes a range of spaces used in meaningful and therapeutic ways. As well as activity spaces there is also a garden, gym, fully-equipped occupational therapy service, psychology department, social spaces and single en-suite bedrooms.

Environments are set up in ways that contribute to the recovery of each individual. The hospital itself is set in beautiful grounds, employing a full-time gardener who in turn works with service users in looking after the garden.

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