Interview with Sole Inspirer - Millicent Williams
Let’s Millicent Williams
Millicent is a selfless, brave and ever-vigilant mother who parents a son with Asperger. Millicent’s faith and compassion are what keeps her focused on making sure her son, Ethan Thomas, understands that different is not less, while he is defying his diagnosis daily.
SI | Can you tell the readers a little about yourself?
Millicent | My name is Millicent Williams and I live in Portland, Oregon. I am a daughter, sister and mother. My son’s name is Ethan Thomas, who is a 20-year-old amazing young man that I’ve had the opportunity to raise. What makes Ethan and our relationship special is that Ethan is on the autism spectrum.
SI | When did you discover Ethan was on the autism spectrum?
Millicent | At about 18 to 20 months old, I started to notice Ethan was not as verbal, as most kids. He was social, had motor skills but he wasn’t speaking. When he turned 3 years old, we took him to get an evaluation because his speech was still delayed and he was having challenges connecting with other kids. What we learned was that many times, the first diagnosis for a child demonstrating developmental delays isn’t Autism or Asperger. Because there is a lack of clarity about how to define the condition – because of the wide array of the way that the disability presents itself, it can take several evaluations before being diagnosed. Once we received the diagnosis, I was on a quest to find out what we needed to do for Ethan to grow and flourish.
SI | As a child, did Ethan know he was different?
Millicent | No, because we always placed him in supportive environments. Even at school, he had a strong support network that was accepting of his differences, so he wasn’t made fun of or called out. Also, at the time, Ethan didn’t interpret language the way that other people would, so if someone did treat him differently, he didn’t really realize it. I like to think that his differences inadvertently served as a form of protection from the potential criticism of others. I didn’t tell him until he was much older that he was different.
SI | How did you cope and deal with the difficult times?
Millicent | I had to remind myself that accepting it was ok. I had to be ok with everything not being perfect, depend on my FAITH and remind myself that God wouldn’t give me more than I can handle. I had to believe that. God knows that I could handle it. I also allowed myself to feel, cry and question. I try to avoid showing Ethan weak moments and separate everyday challenges from what he sees, as he translates everything – emotions, life stages, and challenges - very literally and often takes things to the extreme. Example: He sees my gray hair and translates that into old age and death.
SI | Millicent we follow you on Social Media and we love your post about Ethan and what he’s doing. Can you share with our readers about his love for voice acting please?
Millicent | Sure! When Ethan was a child, I let him watch a lot of tv. People used to say, “I think you let him watch too much television.” Well…….. maybe I did. When you and your child are dealing with food aversion, occasional outburst or frustration because, in the case of Ethan, he couldn’t convey what he wanted say, yes, I let him watch his favorite animated shows (over and over and over again) because he was comfortable. It was while watching these shows, that he had a moment of peace. The blessing in that is that, while he was watching, not only was he entertained, but he began to learn how to speak in complete sentences - mimicking both the words and ultimately, the voices. Now, at the drop of a dime, Ethan can do 70 different voices and accents. He took what the world saw as a negative and turned it into a positive. And to think, his chosen path is to be a Voice Actor.
SI | That’s amazing. So, what does this path look like for Ethan ?
Millicent | From the time that he wakes up until he goes to bed, he is imitating existing characters and creating his own. He is a theater major at his school and is in an acting conservatory. Additionally, he works out daily to strengthen his core (in the event that he does voices for video games with combat scenes) and takes voice and dance classes to develop his vocal cords and build up his stamina. In April of this year, Ethan took his first voiceover (VO) coaching class with legendary voice actor, Dave Fennoy. That’s huge. When your child can receive lessons from a man who has dominated the industry for over 25 years, has voiced over 400 video games, was the voice of Hulu, and is a working actor….. I’m reminded that nothing is too big, hard, improbable or impossible for God.
SI |That’s amazing. Last question Millicent: What advice would you give someone who found out their child is on the autism spectrum?
Millicent | I would suggest:
Be accepting of the difference and be patient.
Trust your mother / father wit. You have to be their best advocate.
Don’t allow anyone or any system to tell you what you cannot have or have access to.
Let people help you. It was hard for me to accept help, but I had to allow myself to receive help from others.
Once you do understand what’s going on, explain to others around you, that want to be helpful and supportive. There will be times where you have to clue others in early that aren’t close to you, like your employer.
The transparency of not hiding the “other ability” is freeing. Talk about it and take the mystery away, so there is no story and nothing to report.
Don’t apologize for the difference.
Embrace the journey and celebrate the victory. Support your child as they work to defy the odds. Pour into them as often and as much as you can.
SI | Millicent, Thank you for your time and for sharing your journey with us.