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Birthday Party: A film about the SIGNS of autism in children

A film to help frontline professionals identify the signs of autism in children.
A film to help frontline professionals identify the signs of autism in children.

The Birthday Party film is a training tool for frontline professionals to identify the signs of autism in children.

Developed by the Wales Autism Research Centre (WARC),Welsh Government and research partners, the Birthday Party film highlights five ‘SIGNS’ of autism by focusing on three autistic children attending a birthday party.

The film is based on research evidence developed at WARC and can be viewed on the Welsh Government’s Autism Wales website, which is a site dedicated to improving the lives of autistic people in Wales.

View the Birthday Party Film on the website.

Aims of the film

The purpose of the film is to help increase autism awareness in professionals, including the identification of concerns that may be relevant for referral. It is suitable for professionals working in education, healthcare and social services, as well as for informing the general public.

What the film is about

The film describes the signs of autism seen in three children, Jack, Rhys and Amy. It demonstrates how the same signs can show themselves in different ways and that no two children will have an identical presentation of the signs. It also shows how the signs can be easy to miss. The signs can also be common in children without autism, so it is important to look for the pattern in which they present.

The five SIGNS of autism are:

Differences or difficulties in:

  1. Social interaction and verbal communication
  2. Imagination
  3. Gestures or non-verbal communication
  4. Narrow range of interests, routines and repetitive behaviours
  5. Sensory responses

Impact of the film

Welsh Government

The film has been adopted by the Welsh Government’s National Autism Team and was used as part of their Learning About Autism programme, which aims to raise awareness and understanding of autism in educational settings, as well as part of their Clinicians’ toolkit.

Teaching and healthcare training

Examples of its use include teacher training in Italy, Australia, Spain, The Netherlands, Latvia, Lithuania and Vietnam, and training healthcare professionals in a wide variety of countries including Kenya and Mali. The film has also been made available to all Italian nursery and kindergarten teachers through the Istituto Superiore di Sanita (leading technical-scientific body of the Italian Health Service).

Use in the wider community

Closer to home, it has been included in the Royal College of General Practitioners’ ASD online toolkit and in specialist training by the National Autistic Society. It has also been part of the Autism Essentials for Psychiatrists training course e-resources, developed by Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and the Centre for Autism Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Intellectual Disability.

Our achievements were recognised in a Cardiff University Innovation and Impact Award in 2019. For further information, read our summary report of the development and impact of the film.

Using the film

The film has been translated into Welsh, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian and Spanish and is freely available on the Welsh Government’s 'The Birthday Party' website. If you would like to use the film in training then please complete a permission form available on the website.

The development of the film has been funded by the ESRC and the Welsh Government.

Research partners

Get in touch

Dr Catherine Jones

Dr Catherine Jones

Senior Lecturer and Director of WARC

+44 (0)29 2087 0684