Teen with autism becomes entrepreneur selling creative soaps

A simple bicycle has changed the life of 16-year-old Spencer Kelly.

One day when he didn't lock his bike, it got stolen. Spencer's dad, Stephen, lent him $300 to buy a new bike, but was expecting the money back by the end of summer. So, Spencer needed a way to make some money.

He didn't look for a job, though -- he started his own business.

"You use soap; I use soap; the guy downstairs uses soap; the president uses soap; who doesn't use soap?" he says, and Expedition Soap was born.

A year later, Spencer is a successful entrepreneur, selling his creative suds all over metro Detroit and online.

"I set out to provide luxury handmade, wonderful, all natural soap at reasonable prices, and, so far I've done that," he says.

It's a remarkable feat, especially considering Spencer has never had it easy.

"He was nonverbal. We found ways to communicate with him that worked for him," says his mom, Tracie.

At two years old, he had incredible reading skills, but when the pages stopped turning Spencer stopped talking.

"He was a kid who developed early reading skills when he couldn't speak," Tracie explains. "So he was able to from a book but he couldn't hold a conversation."

Sleepless nights filled with worry turned into countless doctor visits, and, eventually Traci and Stephen were told their 4-year-old son was on the autism spectrum.

"I felt like, holy smokes, I can't believe this is going on. I can't believe my son has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder," says Stephen.

The specific diagnosis is Asperger syndrome, a disorder characterized by social and communication struggles. The Kellys ended up with more questions than answers.

They start doing everything possible to help Spencer, including alignments from chiropractor Brigette Bowler in Ferndale. After the first one at the age of four, the Kellys believed Spencer had a new ability to speak.

These treatments continue to this day.

Now, 12 years after the diagnosis, thanks to influential teachers, therapy, vitamins and a special diet, Spencer is a thriving teenager learning to drive, preparing for college and running Expedition Soaps.  

He's learning about soap scents, dollars and cents and salesmanship. But the biggest lesson, is a simple one.

"Everyone's got their quirks and you just have to figure them out," as Spencer puts it.

The Kellys say so many people and programs have helped get Spencer to this place. One of them is OU Cares at Oakland University, which offers support for families living with an autism spectrum disorder.

For more information on OU Cares, go to https://oakland.edu/oucares/

For more information on Expedition Soaps, go to https://expeditionsoaps.com/

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