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Forty years and growing

Laura Sturza

When Ann Thayer’s family moved to Burbank in 1954, she and her

husband looked for a school for their son, Grant, who was born

moderately retarded.


“Let’s face it, 55 years ago there were very few schools for

children that were slower and couldn’t do things,” Thayer said.

After trying several schools, Thayer brought her son to the

Burbank Center for the Retarded when it opened in 1963.


The center, which also known as BCR: A Place to Grow, is

celebrating its 40th anniversary this month.

“The teachers just seemed more concerned. They took an interest in

the children,” Thayer said of finding the school when Grant was 15.

The facility’s 20 teachers serve 90 clients -- adults and children

-- by offering weekday activities that include work training,

classroom study, health, arts and sports classes, and field trips.

The nonprofit group is funded mostly by the state, and is likely


to suffer funding cuts as California attempts to balance its budget.

The center’s leaders do not know how much money is at risk or how

they will address a potential shortfall.

Services for the population are different than they were 40 years


“I think the teachers have much more education in this field now,”

Thayer said. Another change is the inclusion of the mentally retarded

in decision-making, such as choosing the activities in which they


will participate and where they will live, the center’s executive

director Rachel Galperin said.

Some of Grant’s favorite activities include bowling, cooking and

listening to the music of his favorite star, Elvis Presley.

“I like him, he’s a nice singer,” the 55-year-old fan said.

Many changes to the treatment of developmentally disabled people

are the result of the passage of the Lanterman Act in the late 1960s.

The law helped to move the population out of institutions and into

their family’s homes or group homes by requiring communities to

provide the type of day programs offered by the Burbank center.

Future goals that Galperin holds for her clients include

continuing to increase community acceptance of the population and

finding more opportunities to integrate people into activities, such

as work programs.