Justin Grafman’s light-brown locks fell over his bright blue eyes as
he played with other children at the Boys and Girls Club of Burbank
Wednesday. His brother Jake’s dark curly hair draped his brow the
same way, but these siblings have more in common than their darling
Justin, 6, is hard of hearing and Jake, 9, is deaf.
The two attend the deaf and hard-of-hearing program at the Burbank
Boys and Girls Club, a daily after-school program designed to help
children with hearing disabilities function more easily in society.
“We’re giving the students edge,” said the program’s coordinator
Michele Betton, who is also hard of hearing.
Children have more challenges to overcome if they are
hearing-impaired and can become isolated because they don’t have
access to the same language as hearing students, Betton said. But
through this program, students get group help with their homework and
develop verbal and sign language so they can communicate.
Before the program began a year ago, many children would return
home to a world of silence after school, said Shanna Vaughan,
executive director for the Boys and Girls Club of Burbank. She helped
start the program with another nonprofit organization, Tripod, which
is now defunct. The two coordinated with Burbank Unified School
District to bus students from Burbank and neighboring districts to
From 2 to 7 p.m. daily, children play, do crafts and have
small-group homework help for two hours with teachers from Burbank
Unified School District working as independent contractors.
“I do my homework,” Destiney Dutton, 9, said. “I play with my
friends. I talk to them. They talk to me.”
Destiney likes to communicate through speaking and sign language.
“The kids have full access to academic language in their own
language,” said Bill Gallimore, who also teaches at Washington
Elementary and Burbank High School.
Over time, students gain confidence to ask for help in school and
are able to understand the materials better, Betton said.
Justin likes to do his homework at the club, “so my mom can be
happy,” he said. He and his brother also like to play with the other
children, though Justin’s residual hearing lets him communicate more
verbally, and Jake signs more.
“I like to be with deaf kids,” Jake said. “Because if they’re
hearing, I can’t understand what they’re saying.”
Though Justin prefers to communicate by speaking, it’s beneficial
to learn how to sign and speak, said Alissa Daniels, 16, a
hard-of-hearing student at Burbank High School and coordinator and
sign language translator with the program.
The cost of the program is $200 a month, but scholarships are
available so no child is turned away, Vaughan said.