By Joy Hollowell
Published: Jun. 7, 2021 at 3:14 PM CDT|Updated: 21 hours ago

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GLENBURN, Maine (WABI) – This Sunday, Bangor High School will hold its graduation ceremony.

Among those receiving a diploma: Kenneth Kelley.

TV 5 has been following the Glenburn young man for about 12 years now, as Kenneth receives stem cell therapy to treat autism.

Joy Hollowell brings us an update on the now 19-year-old.

We first met Kenneth Kelley back in 2009. The then 8-year-old had already started stem cell therapy. He was diagnosed with autism when he was 2.

“We saw changes within days from the first treatment,” says Kenneth’s mom, Marty Kelley. “And then the first year was amazing. The second year. And things really didn’t stop happening.”

Kenneth was the first child in Maine to receive umbilical cord blood to treat autism. He and his family traveled to Panama for the IVs.

We caught up again with then 14-year-old Kenneth after four stem cell infusions.

“He was struggling to communicate with us even at 8 years old. He was still in diapers,” says Marty. “So I never thought he’d go to high school.”

Not only did Kenneth attend high school, this Sunday he will walk across the stage to receive his diploma from Bangor High School.

The now 19-year-old hopes to one day open a food truck or coffee shop.

“In the moment is how parents think,” says Kenneth’s father, Donald Kelley. “And they just hope for the best for that moment. Especially with an autistic child. And then when you see that your child has been blessed with stem cell treatments and the improvement, it’s just a dream come true.”

To date, Kenneth underwent eight stem cell treatments.

“They put a little needle in, it’s not too bad,” says Kenneth.

“My friend and I started a Facebook group and there’s 12,000 families in there that are actively going for stem cells,” says Marty. “Here in Maine, I know of at least a dozen families.”

Marty says Kenneth’s overall IQ scores jumped nearly 20 points since he started stem cell therapy.

“It’s a milestone, it’s been a hard journey,” she says emotionally.

The Kelleys acknowledge other intervention methods also contributed to Kenneth’s progress and stem cell treatments don’t work for every autistic child. They’re just grateful for the opportunity to watch their son graduate high school.

“Oh, I’m just going to be filled with tears of joys,” says Donald. “I think we’re both going to be overwhelmingly happy for him, to be in a place where he can finally look back and say- wow, I did it.”

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