The Venner boys share a similar diagnosis – autism – but, just as no 2 kids are alike, neither is their disorder.
“As we listened to our friends talk about their children the same age, we began to realize Oscar was very different,” said Jason, the boys’ dad. “He wasn’t socializing with kids his age, and often found repetitive and routine things much more a necessity than comforting. His pediatrician suggested that we test him for autism.”
As Oscar struggled with fine motor skills, obsessive thinking and socializing, he was excelling in other areas. At 2, he could recite whole movies from memory and taught himself to read – books, newspapers and atlases. By age 4, he was memorizing maps and knew facts about every U.S. president.
Oscar was diagnosed with autism at 3 and enrolled in a blended preschool class. Although he was smart, capable and kind, things like running and climbing were a challenge. In support, he began attending physical, occupational and speech therapy.
“His therapists and intervention specialists have been nothing short of amazing and saintly,” said Jason. “Dr. Foster has been an incredible resource and support structure for not only Oscar, but also Casper and my wife.”
When little brother Casper was born, the first couple days were very typical. Soon, though, his parents noticed some of the same things they had with Oscar – extremely difficult feeding sessions, refusal to be swaddled or held and needing constant and odd types of motion.
As Casper got older, extremely long meltdowns and obsessive behavior gave way to sensory overload and aggressive behavior.
“Having known the signs to look for, my wife and I began seeking help immediately for Casper, but people brushed us off,” said Jason. “Casper was sociable and liked playing with kids his age and could look people in the eye, which was different from his brother.”
Casper had also taught himself to read very early on. By age 5, he was playing complex video games and quickly building 800+ piece Lego sets, but he still struggled with self-regulation and very routine things at home and school.
His family kept fighting for him and, finally, in the fall of 2019, Casper was diagnosed with autism and started a number of behavior and speech therapies to help him use words to explain why he was upset or frustrated.
“Dr. Foster has been instrumental in his diagnosis and has assured us, as parents, that we weren’t doing anything wrong,” said Shannon, the boys’ mom. “We never felt heard until the boys had her as a doctor.”
Through it all, autism hasn’t defined the boys. Oscar loves reading, singing and being involved with Weathervane Theater. Casper is quite the funny man and comes alive on stage while acting in theater or playing with his brother.
“Casper and Oscar are examples for others that autism isn’t the end of the road, it’s just a map for a different kind of adventure,” added Jason.