By Nicole A. Elliott Staff writer

SWIM AND LEARN — Danielle Suydam, a volunteer with the Sensory Swimming Program for children with autism at the Mohawk Valley Community College pool and a teacher at Upstate Cerebral Palsy, of Utica, goes over the day’s lesson with Daniel Sprock, 11, of Rome. Family members said Sprock loves participating in the new swimming program, offered through the Kelberman Center, because it’s his favorite activity. The Sprocks plan on participating in the 2012 Walk for Autism in Rome on April 21 to raise money for Kelberman Center programs as well as autism research. (Sentinel photo by Stefan Matwijec) .

They walk for one. They walk for all.

Family, friends and community members will lace up their sneakers and get ready to walk laps around their local tracks to raise money and awareness towards autism spectrum disorder programs and research.

The 2012 Walk for Autism will be held at the Rome Free Academy indoor track Saturday, April 21, as well as Oneida High School and the Kelberman Center’s Armory Drive Campus, Building A, in Utica. Walks will also be held Saturday, April 28 at the Boonville Veterans of Foreign Wars Post and at New Hartford Recreation Center. Day-of-the-event registration will be held at 9:30 a.m. each day, with walks to follow at 11 a.m.

For the Sprocks, of Rome, the walk is a special event for them to come together and support the services son Daniel receives through the Kelberman Center. The Sprocks have participated in the walk since it began in Rome in 2009.

Daniel, age 11, is participating in a 10-week one-on-one swim lesson program through the Kelberman Center that is being hosted by Mohawk Valley Community College. It’s a new program that Daniel’s mother, Lori Sprock, said her son greatly enjoys because it’s his favorite activity.

"We’re thankful the Kelberman Center came up with that idea (for the swim program) being that it’s one of Dan’s favorite things to do," Sprock said.

Daniel was diagnosed with autism when he was 3 and began receiving services through early intervention with the Upstate Cerebral Palsy center. He was enrolled in the Promise Program from ages 3-4, where children receive therapeutic intervention and educational instruction five days a week. In order to facilitate a smooth transition to a less restrictive environment, a peer network has also been created within the Promise Program. The network provides Promise Program students an opportunity to practice and generalize their skills while interacting with typical learning age appropriate peers.

After attending school at UCP, located at Griffiss Business and Technology Park, Daniel was enrolled at Ridge Mills Elementary before just being transitioned to Staley Upper Elementary School where he has been mainstreamed into a fourth grade classroom.

"The Promise Program is a tremendous program and it’s what got Dan moving on is feet," Sprock said. "It’s a structured program and perfect for what the kids need. They also offer support and training to our schools in the community."

When Daniel was first diagnosed with autism, Sprock said she and husband Jay would also sometimes attend monthly parental support meetings hosted by the Kelberman Center. They also continue to enroll Dan in programs offered by the center that meet his needs.

"It’s just been wonderful for us," Sprock said of the center in Utica. "We got to know many good people there. And we like how it’s local. The Kelberman Center not only serves the Utica/Rome area, but it serves other surrounding communities so families don’t have to travel to Syracuse or Albany to get services, and they’re always adding new programs with educational components to meet the ever-changing needs of these children. Learning the diagnosis for Dan and having somewhere to go that was just 20 minutes away from our home, was probably the best thing at the time for us."

A year ago in September, with donations made by the Sprock family, the Rome UCP building on Brookley Road was named the Daniel Sprock Educational Center in honor of Dan.

"That was really special with him having gone there a year or so," Sprock said.

Now the Autism Walk has become a family affair. Even little brother Connor, age 7, helps out. This year’s Walk for Autism will also feature a Zumba fitness dancing demonstration and a bake sale. And if the weather is pleasant, participants will also have the opportunity to walk the school’s outdoor track, Sprock said. The family has already made team T-shirts and has gone to area businesses to help raise money for the walk.

"My husband usually helps set up for the walk and then we all join in," she said. "And Connor is learning a lot. Having his brother with autism, he relates now to other children with special needs and he’s great with them. He knows how to help them out and care for them and respect them."

For more information about the 2012 Walk for Autism or the services provided by the Kelberman Center, visit online at or call 797-6241. Families can also start their own fund-raising web pages via the website.