Autistic Spectrum Disorder - low secure


A dedicated low secure assessment, stabilisation and treatment service for men with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD).

With separate units for Admission & Assessment and for Stabilisation & Treatment, Harlestone is able to support the unique needs of each individual patient, which can often be complex and may include co-morbidities, such as personality disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. 

Admissions criteria

Harlestone provides care for men aged between 18 and 65 years with a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD);

  • we accept patients with a mild or borderline learning disability (IQ of 60 or above) if they would benefit from the service


  • due to their level of risk, patients would meet the criteria for detention under the Mental Health Act.

These criteria are a guide for assessing suitability; each patient will be individually assessed.

Meeting patients' evolving needs


We pay close attention to environmental, sensory and communication issues to ensure our care and treatment programmes have the maximum amount of personalisation. By recognising the differences in individuals we’re able to provide highly specialist holistic care which covers the wide ranging needs our patients may have. Our core aim is to support a patient to progress to the least restrictive setting possible.

With two distinctive units, we’re able to assess and manage a patient’s anxiety, risk behaviours and engagement levels whilst separately providing a stable environment for patients who are progressing with treatment, promoting resilience and preventing relapse. 

Our ASD pathway adopts a bio-psycho-social treatment approach, using a blend of well-established tools and assessment methods to assess each patient individually. 

With 8 beds, the Lower Harlestone team uses dedicated diagnostic tools, recommended in the NICE guidelines, to produce a multi-disciplinary formulation of needs which includes communication and psychiatric assessments. We work closely with patients to better understand their offending and risk behaviours and to improve quality of life by addressing ASD, health and wellbeing and vocational needs.

Once stabilised a patient will move to Upper Harlestone where their person-centred programme will focus on risk reducing therapeutic activities and interventions, including new skills development. As an example, these may include:

  • offending behaviour therapies (e.g. arson/fire setting, sexual offending, internet related offending)
  • cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • anxiety management
  • speech and language therapy 
  • occupational therapy
  • music
  • drama.

Discharge plans

Discharge is considered at the point of admission and our multi-disciplinary teams work on discharge planning and community reintegration from the outset through:

  • Safe use of escorted/unescorted leave
  • Support packages including additional services, educational and work opportunities
  • Individual relapse prevention plans.

We’re also able to provide a locked rehabilitation service in Garden Cottage which further supports a patient’s transition from secure care back into the community.

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