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
“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.