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Frequently Asked Questions

Can you give me a quick overview of PACE?
  • PACE is based on the best scientific research available and is continually modified to incorporate new scientific data.
  • PACE targets and trains those skills that are most likely to have a meaningful impact on learning performance and academic abilities.
  • PACE is provided individually to achieve significant results quickly.
  • PACE consists of sequenced procedures to challenge – not bore or frustrate – the student.
  • PACE is provided on a one-on-one basis to allow immediate feedback (error correction and positive reinforcement).
  • PACE improves the student’s self-esteem by allowing him or her to actually see the difference in his or her own performance.
  • PACE drives new skills to the subconscious so that they become habitual and automatic.
  • PACE procedures appear to be non-academic so that they are different from the schoolwork with which the student may have had negative experiences.
  • PACE develops meaningful skills that are used in the student’s daily activities so that there is a high level of retention.
  • PACE produces valuable results (there is a high return) when considering committed effort, time, and finances.
How and why was PACE developed?

In 1985 an informal symposium was held in Appleton, Wisconsin that changed the way we look at learning difficulties.  Specialists in special education, clinical and cognitive psychology, occupational therapy, central auditory processing, visual processing, learning disabilities, and memory research from a number of universities and professional clinics met to ask and answer one question:

“How can we best help individuals experiencing learning difficulties so that they can learn easier and faster?”

Led by Dr. Ken Gibson, a specialist in pediatric visual processing, and his brother, Keith Gibson, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, the symposium reviewed the existing research on brain and memory function, visual processing, and learning theory.

For over 15 years, the two brothers had been gathering clinical experience with both children and adults. They had observed that some patients seemed to attend better and recall important facts more easily when they were given short but intense periods of training. They now asked the question, “what kind of learning has the greatest impact in the shortest possible time?”

The Gibson brothers developed a series of exercises that rapidly improved concentration and recall abilities. Soon they were ready for the first test.

It was important to thoroughly assess each student before and after the training to see how effective the procedures were.  The initial results were outstanding.  Not only did the initial 35 cases register almost three years improvement in about three months, but a year later, 98.7% of the test findings were at or above the initial pre-program level.

As in learning to ride a bicycle or play the piano, the ability had been strengthened and was an active part of their mental tool kit.  In addition, the grade scores of the children confirmed that the training had translated into superior academic performance.

Once the fundamental principles had been established, the program underwent 10 years of review and experimentation.  Other educational, psychological and medical specialists were brought in and modifications were made as new research became available.  It was soon discovered that students with attention problems (ADD), dyslexia, memory deficits, and other learning disabilities were benefiting.

Unlike other disability learning programs that focus on behavior management or specific academic skills, PACE seemed to improve the brain’s processing ability.  For the first time in educational history, a complete program had been developed that would do for mental abilities what exercise does for the body.

By 1995, all the effective components were in place.  The program was dubbed PACE for Processing and Cognitive Enhancement.  It has rapidly become the leading cognitive training program in the USA.  Over 700 professionals in more than 350 schools, clinics, hospitals, and training locations have participated in the development, testing, and clinical use of the PACE program to date.  PACE continues to collect data from offices across the country and critically reviews the results to maintain quality control.

The purpose of the intense PACE program is to produce significant changes quickly so that the student sees the changes and stays motivated to learn.  The program is now distributed world-wide by licensed therapists and educators and is available for both adults and children.

What are the major causes of learning problems?

About 85 to 90 percent of learning difficulties are due to poor underlying learning skills.  These skills include:

  • Attention/Concentration: the ability to stay on task or ignore distractions.  For example, continuing to read a book while another group is in a discussion.
  • Phonetic awareness: the ability to blend sounds, segment (unglue) sounds, and analyze sounds.  Problems with reading new words or spelling errors in writing result from poor phonetic awareness.
  • Memory: the ability to recall short or long term information.  For example, copying from a board (short term) or taking a final history exam (long term).
  • Comprehension: the ability to understand.
  • Visualization: the ability to create mental pictures.  For example, seeing “in the mind” a math word problem before trying to solve it.
  • Processing Speed: the ability to handle and process information quickly.
Are learning difficulties due to a lack of instruction?

This is easy to determine.  If you or your child is able to understand and perform as others do with extra help or tutoring, then the cause of the struggle is poor or inadequate instruction.  But if good performance is achieved only after long hours, sweat, or many mistakes, then the problem is deeper.

Is lack of motivation the cause of learning difficulties?

Very few enter school or a job not wanting to succeed.  It is only after they find it difficult, experience failure, or are ridiculed that they avoid the activities that give them pain.  In other words, a lack of motivation is usually the result of a learning problem – not the cause.

Are learning difficulties inherited?

Heredity does play a role, but it is minor.  It is generally believed that between 40% and 70% of our mental abilities are learned, not inherited.  Therefore, we can accomplish far more if we stop blaming the problems on genes, which we can’t change, and start enhancing the skills that are learned and can be changed.

Can a child with normal intelligence have a problem with learning?

Absolutely.  IQ is only an average of many different learning skills, which means it’s possible for someone who has “normal” intelligence to have scored high on some skills and low on others.  And if those “low” scores are in the skills required for reading or math, then reading or math achievement will be low even though IQ is “normal.”  Read more about the misinterpretation of achievement and IQ test scores.

If your child scored low on a phonemic awareness subtest (a necessary skill for reading and spelling) but high on all the others, his IQ would be considered normal or above.  You would be told that because your child has the potential (IQ) he will need either more motivation or additional instruction while completely ignoring the cause of his difficulty – poor phonemic awareness!

The cause will go untreated, and the struggles will continue.  Not assuring that your child has the adequate underlying learning tools for learning is like asking someone to build a house today with nothing other than a hammer, handsaw, and a screwdriver.

Is PACE based on clinical results or laboratory studies?

PACE was developed in clinical settings using real people with real learning problems but utilizing and applying the best scientific research.

PACE is directed by some of the nation’s most highly regarded experts on learning in the fields of clinical and neuropsychology, visual and auditory processing, and education.  These experts have been responsible for hundreds of professional articles, research projects, books, publications, and lectures throughout the world.  Their purpose is to ensure that new developments in learning are applied to help those with cognitive deficiencies succeed.

In the last few years, great strides have been made by researchers to expand our understanding of how the brain works.  This has allowed the creation of better learning models and remedial strategies to help those who have difficulty learning.  Today, PACE is at the forefront of using this knowledge to make significant improvements in learning skills.

Why are most PACE training procedures non-academic?

Academic content could cause some students to resist training because it may seem too much like school, which the student may associate with negative experiences.  Because we start at the point the student can achieve and then gradually increase the demand – like a video game – the student gains ability and confidence.

Also, the short-range goal of PACE is improved learning performance.  PACE improves the student’s learning performance so that the student is able to learn more easily and efficiently.  This then makes it possible to achieve PACE’s long-range goal of improved academic or job related performance.

What is a training task?

PACE training procedures are made up of tasks that are designed to meet specific goals.  The tasks are related, make repetitive demands on a deficient skill, and progressively increase in difficulty.  This is a process-specific approach to training (as opposed to a general stimulation approach).  A process-specific approach targets the same function systematically and repetitively with related tasks.

Why is PACE provided one-on-one rather than in a group?

PACE is done one-on-one for two reasons.  First, the activities need to be sequenced according to each student’s skill level.  Each training task demands very specific skills.  The student needs to be constantly challenged.  If the task is too easy, it’s boring.  But if it’s too hard, it’s frustrating.  Procedures that are challenging will cause the most improvement.

Second, we need to provide immediate feedback.  Students need praise when performing correctly as an incentive to keep working, and they need correction when making an error so they are aware of the mistake.  Later, they learn to recognize and correct their own errors.

How is PACE different from other remediation programs?

Traditional help for individuals with learning problems has typically focused on one of four methodologies:

  • sensory therapy (vision, auditory)
  • motor therapy (speech, occupational)
  • psychotherapy (motivation)
  • academic remediation (remedial reading, learning disabled programs)

Although these methods may be effective in correcting a sensory, motor, or very specific academic problem, they have had limited results in significantly improving learning performance.

PACE, on the other hand, is a process-specific approach using planned, repetitive exercises that place demands on deficient mental functions.  When the student masters the exercise, a more demanding exercise that targets the same mental skill is available to continue the training.

Do all PACE students progress at the same rate?

No.  Normally a student with fewer deficient learning skills will progress faster than a student with many.  Each procedure is graded according to difficulty and tasks become progressively more complex.  Pace is regulated by mastery, so the number of tasks completed during training differ from student to student.  In other words, once the student passes a task, he or she is then allowed to progress to the next challenge (a more difficult task).

How does PACE differ from academic tutoring?

PACE tackles the cause rather than the effect.  If the reason for learning difficulties is poor instruction, then academic tutoring is the correct solution.  But if there is a deficient underlying learning skill, then PACE may be able to “cure” the cause.

What results does PACE get?

PACE’s pre and post test results show changes in cognitive skills which are unmatched.  And our studies are not just done on small control groups of 15 to 25 students but on thousands of students and by a multitude of providers throughout the country.  Average gains in deficient learning skills are greater than 3.6 years in only ten weeks!  These gains are reflected in IQ scores that show an average 28 point increase where IQ was below the norm and an average 13 point increase where IQ was initially above the norm!  For more details click here.

Do the results last?

Yes.  The skills developed are used each day the student is in school or at work.  They are constantly being used and therefore don’t regress.  This retention is reflected in a study that showed that 98.7% of the one year follow-up cognitive test scores were at least as high as they were at the completion of PACE.

How do we know if we are getting results?

Our training is not done in secret.  Parents are required to spend at least 3 hours per week doing procedures with their child.  Therefore parents will know if improvement is being made.

How long does it take to complete PACE?

After 10 or 12 weeks, post testing is done to determine progress.  Because the average improvement is about 3.6 year gains for each deficient skill, most students are then at or above their age level.  At this point providers, parents, and students can determine if they need and want to continue.  Our recommendation is that as long as the gains being made are worth the time, money and effort – continue, and if not – discontinue.

Why does PACE require so many hours per week?

We believe that getting big, fast changes is far better than getting slow, gradual changes for two reasons.  First, it is easier to get parents to commit to working very hard for 12 weeks than one hour a week for 18 months.  Second, it’s important that students see big changes quickly – this will increase their self-esteem and they’ll be motivated to work even harder because they can see the payoff.

How does PACE affect dyslexia (poor reading)?

Parents, researchers, and educators have long wondered why some children fail to learn to read when other children in the same classroom with the same curriculum have easily learned to read.  Is there something wrong with those that fail to read?  Do they have some sort of disorder?  What factors do and do not play a role in reading failure?

The term is often used by those who believe that poor reading is due to a neurological disorder.  The problem, however, is that this fails to consider normal variations of mental skills or abilities.  Remember that reading has been invented and is not an innate, biological entity of just one part of the brain.  In fact, we actually use numerous parts of our brain to read.

Deficiencies in particular mental skills, most often due to normal variation, not brain damage, are the neurological basis for a reading problem.  Years of research on the brain have conclusively shown that those diagnosed as “dyslexic” do not have damage to any part of the brain.

Numerous other studies have also demonstrated a high correlation between the ability to read and the ability to manipulate sounds in words.  Although this skill has been called many different things (auditory processing, phonemic awareness, phonetic awareness, phonological awareness, or phonological processing), it can be summarized as the ability to “unglue” sounds in words, blend sounds to form words, and analyze sounds within words.

In other words, many students with reading problems struggle to hear, analyze, and separate the individual phonemes in words.  Furthermore, it has been shown that children don’t automatically learn to segment words into sounds simply because they are exposed to a reading system.  In summary, research consistently shows that phonemic awareness is the major predictor of reading ability (independent of reading scores themselves).

Other factors that impact learning to read to lesser degrees include speech problems, attention and visual processing.  Inheritance is also a factor.  But poor reading is not inherited.  Reading cannot be coded in genes anymore than other high skills like typing or playing a piano.  What can be inherited is the tendency to have difficultly blending, segmenting, and analyzing sounds.  But these problems can be corrected.

To correct these problems the student needs to develop the ability to:

  1. hear the individual sounds within words
  2. blend isolated sounds into words
  3. analyze and manipulate sounds within words

PACE includes procedures that evaluate, pinpoint and develop to advanced levels the underlying mental skills required to assure fast and efficient learning-to-read skills.  Beyond this, the developers of PACE have also developed a revolutionary new sound-based one-on-one reading and spelling program called Master The Code.  For more information see www.masterthecode.com.

How does PACE affect motivation and self-image?

Internal motivation comes from within a person.  It is a person’s individual need – for a reason that others may not even be aware of – to attain a goal.  Those with a history of learning problems are often lacking in this area.  They do not feel that they can attain goals, so they do not have the motivation to try to attain them.  The possibility for improvement seems so poor that they do not sustain the maximum effort that should be put forth to accomplish a task.  Therefore, in PACE, we make sure students quickly achieve many small successes.  In many cases, within three weeks, students have moved beyond what they had previously thought would be impossible, and are then ready and eager for new and greater challenges.  Success breeds success, and as students experience improved skills and capabilities their self image will soar!

To what degree can mental skills be changed?

Mental skills may sometimes appear fixed, especially since IQ results have been used for years to classify and label people as having a specific level of intelligence.  But the truth is that we do not have to accept poor mental skills because we can improve them.  They are not fixed.  A numerical IQ result is simply an average of the many mental skills that are tested by an intelligence test.  This average reflects a person’s present level of mental functioning – not a fixed ability that is constant across a life span.  Mental skills are learned skills and can, therefore, be practiced and improved.

For years, we have known that we can modify and improve mental skills.  But most efforts at helping students with learning problems still ignore this knowledge.  Instead, many people try to modify the student’s environment.

What studies show that mental skills can be modified?

There are numerous studies that show this modification is possible.  The following is just a sample of these studies supporting the fact that a wide range of mental skills can be – and have been – improved.

Using a program aimed at developing reasoning and figural classification skills, Jacobs showed a measurable improvement in these skills, a better retention rate, and a transfer of skills to related tasks.

Meichenbaum was able to improve mental performance in a variety of therapeutic situations by modifying the inner speech patterns of children and adults, which shows that learning and memory skills can be trained.

Blank revealed IQ gains of 14.5 points in a one-on-one program that lasted 75 minutes per week over several months. The IQ gains dropped to only seven points when the amount of training was reduced to 45 minutes per week.

Bloom and Broder, using an individualized problem-solving training program, obtained significant gains in grades if there were more than seven sessions.

Lindamood reported individual reading gains averaged 2.4 years in a four-month period for eighth and ninth graders who received auditory-conceptual training.

Greenspan showed a significant improvement in directionality and a reduction of reversal errors after using perceptual-motor training.

Impressive training results have also been documented by Feuerstein, Holzman, and Trabasso for reasoning; Belmont, Brown, and Wanschura for memory; Klahr and Siegler for problem solving; Farr, Hendrickson, Walsh, Brown, Getz, Halliwell, Rowell, and Rosner for visual processing; and Peters, Rose, Yates, Varner, and Turner for auditory processing.

Click here for study results of the PACE program.  The results not only show tremendous changes in processing skills (a 3.6 year improvement in 10 weeks), but also a significant transfer to higher mental skills (a 23-point gain in IQ).

Neurobiologically-based facts and scientific studies show how skills can be modified.  But the question of how training exercises can benefit everyday life remains.  The answer is transfer.

Transfer occurs when a person applies some previously gained knowledge to a new situation that requires a similar task.  For example, a person who learns to play a card game can apply this knowledge to help him or her learn how to play other card games.  The first game teaches the person how many points cards typically are worth, how the cards are typically divided among players, which cards may be considered “trump,” and the value order of the cards.  If a person can learn these rules that are common to most card games, he or she will find learning unfamiliar card games easier.

The same is true for mental training.  A student who learns how to use visualization to remember a list of presidents will be able to use this same strategy to help him or her remember a story or spelling list as well.  And a student who learns to do two or three tasks at one time (such as count by three while following a moving object and clapping in beat) will be able to listen to a teacher and take notes at the same time.  Each skill learned in PACE will transfer to help the student perform other activities that use the same skill.

Not only is this transfer “horizontal” (similar tasks), but it is also “vertical” (affecting higher mental skills).  If a person learns a skill that a higher mental skill is dependent upon, that higher mental skill may be improved as well.  In other words, a student who learns to process information faster, concentrate more, visualize, remember, and conceptualize auditory patterns better will find learning much easier and faster.  PACE targets the processing skills that academic skills rely upon to make learning easier and more efficient for the student.  Then the student will no longer have to learn to process, but can process to learn.  See parent and student comments.

What does a PACE program cost?

The fees vary depending on the type and combination of services you require.  After an initial consultation, we are able to determine the best plan based on the student’s individual learning needs. We want to help as many people as possible so we offer flexible payment plans.

Is there a guarantee?
  1. If after four sessions you are not completely satisfied there is a full refund.
  2. If after the training is completed there has not been at least a two year improvement in a deficient learning skill, you will receive up to 6 more sessions for free or a partial refund.