Research Projects

Action research plays a major role in the work we undertake as Autism at Kingwood strives to gain a deeper understanding of autism and the impact this has on the lives of individuals concerned, particularly with regard to sense and perception. This new understanding is used to inform how we deliver our services.  Our current action research programme includes the following projects, in partnership with the Helen Hamlyn Centre and the Royal College of Art.

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Autism and Design Housing

Living-in-the-communitySince 2009 Kingwood has worked with the Helen Hamlyn Centre at the Royal College of Art to explore the way in which housing is designed and how this impacts on the lives of people with autism and Asperger’s  Results from the first phase of the study led to the successful joint publication of the book ˜Living in the Community Housing Design for Adults with Autism. This year we have been focusing on how people with autism interact with an environment that has been specifically adapted and furnished to take account of their individual sensory issues. We have then gone on to begin assessing whether these adaptations have minimised stress and anxiety triggers for each of the individuals involved in the project and moreover, whether through appropriately structured stimulation within these new environments opportunities can be developed for each person to develop new skills.  Further information from this study will be available towards the end of the year.

A shortened version of the book referred to above, in the form of a briefing document, can be accessed by clicking here.

Autism and Sensory Preference

Exploring-Sensory-PreferencesExploring Sensory Preferences Living Environments for Adults with Autism is the second publication in the series following Housing Design for Adults with Autism produced by Kingwood and the Helen Hamlyn Centre.

The publication describes a design research project aimed at developing ways to support adults with Autism to better manage relationships with their home environments and other people by creating living accommodation that is more sensitive to their sensory needs.

The publication draws findings from the published guide into making sensory props (Ready Steady Make) and the associated staff development workshops for support workers which promotes the development of skills in understanding sensory challenges and making sensory props.

Green Spaces

Green-SpacesA well-designed garden can enhance focus and attention, and reduce anxiety, thereby improving quality of life.

Green spaces the third publication in the series which explores outdoor environments for adults with Autism. The publication describes how design can create beneficial green spaces benefitting those that use them.

The researchers involved visited and consulted with specialists in sensory gardens and therapeutic gardens, in horticulture and occupational therapy.Additionally they spent time with the people kingwood supports and their families.

The findings presented in this publication draws upon our previous research into the built environment and practical experience to expand upon way in which outdoor design can improve the lives of the people we support.

For more information on these publications please visit

Designing Everyday-ActivitiesThis publication is the fourth in a series that describes design research projects carried out by the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design at the Royal College of Art in partnership with The Kingwood Trust. The overall aim of the work is to improve the everyday experiences for those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) through a better understanding of their needs, aspirations and physical environment.

The research investigates how those whom Kingwood support perceive everyday activities and engage with them. The project seeks to help Kingwood’s support staff to develop a design framework that will help to transform or adapt everyday activities in the home. The objective is to make the ordinary extraordinary to design activities that foster opportunities to develop skills and encourage meaningful interactions between people with autism and Kingwood support staff. Everyday activities such as doing laundry, cleaning, cooking a meal or operating electrical appliances help us to develop life skills, to live independently and to keep our homes clean and enjoyable to live in. Most of us take this for granted even though performing these activities demands a substantial amount of body co-ordination, motivation and adaptive skills such as physical dexterity, motor skills, planning, organisational abilities and social communication skills.

Picture-ItThis publication is the fifth in a series that describes design research projects carried out by the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design at the Royal College of Art in partnership with autism charity the Kingwood Trust, which provides support and accommodation for adults with autism.

The overall aim of the work is to improve the everyday experiences of those with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) through better understanding of their needs, aspirations and environment.
It is the latest in a line of design innovations developed over the past five years to address the sensory preferences and special interests of those with autism.