Health & Wellness

Westfield Teen’s Award-Winning Autism Video Translated to Spanish

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Alexandra Jackman, the Westfield teen who created "A Teen’s Guide to Understanding and Communicating with People with Autism." Credits: Susan Cook
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WESTFIELD, NJ — The young autism advocate and Westfield High School junior who, in 2013, released a now acclaimed autism documentary has just released a Spanish language version of the video for the increasing number of Spanish-speaking communities with limited resources on the topic.

The original YouTube video, "A Teen’s Guide to Understanding and Communicating with People with Autism," has been viewed more than 52,000 times and has been shown at several schools in New Jersey during “The Week of Respect.” It has won various awards at film festivals throughout the country.

Alexandra Jackman, the 16-year old behind the film, hopes the translated version will make just as much of an impact as the original. Autism Speaks has already agreed to use the documentary’s Spanish counterpart as a resource for their community.

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“Since the original version was released I have thought about the fact that there are so many people impacted by autism who don’t just speak English, for example those of Latino descent,” Jackman said. “There was definite frustration among people with family members on the autism spectrum who spoke Spanish at home regarding a lack of resources in Spanish. So I thought a translation of the film into Spanish would be a meaningful way to spread autism awareness to an underserved community right here in the United States as well as abroad.”

To start, Jackman made a transcript of the film, which was then translated into Spanish and confirmed to be both conversational and sensitive. With help from Deluxe Entertainment, Jackman was able to record the entire script at Deluxe New York within eight hours. Various recorders and language consultants helped tweak the lines to make it understandable to a broad community of Spanish speakers. They employed native Spanish speakers to ensure accuracy and inclusivity, Jackman’s father, Michael Jackman, explained.

“What was unexpected to me was how much Alex has come to know, organically, about people with autism and that she was able to synthesize that information for the video in such a completely accessible way. There was certainly a lot that she researched for the project, but much of the really poignant material she had come to understand purely through interaction with people with ASD,” he said.

Much of the original documentary and its translation was a result of Jackman’s work and dedication to speaking about Autism Spectrum Disorder. Jackman, often noted for her independence and compassion, started advocating for kids with autism at the age of 10.

The translation and production of the Spanish film required a greater attention to detail than the original, Alexandra Jackman admitted.

“Some things don’t translate directly, so we had to be really careful with my wording and accent,” she said. “For example at the end of the film, I say, ‘People are interesting, people are funny and people are worth the effort.’ But when it was translated directly it said, ‘Those people are interesting,’ which is not at all the meaning I am trying to get across. Because such an important part of the film is the tone and positivity, making sure the translation got that message across was a focus I had not originally suspected.”

The original film has been praised by educators, doctors, and people affected by autism since its release two years ago.

“When we were done and the first of Alex’s expert consultants saw it, I held my breath because everything in it came from Alex’s point of view and knowledge — I did not vet any of the research or facts she presented, as it was her project and responsibility. It was fantastic when experts in the field, as well as people with autism and their families, started praising the message and accuracy,” Michael Jackman added.

Watch the Spanish-language version here:

Danielle Pinney is a senior at Westfield High School participating in a journalism program with TAP into Westfield.

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