Note: All prices in US Dollars
Search by Keyword
Important Update: We now offer an affordable online computer directed cognitive skills training program called BrainSkills, as well as The Gibson Test of Brain Skills, an on-line testing evaluation tool to assess why a student may be struggling
The PACE Program
The PACE program is a twelve-week, intense, one-on-one, cognitive training program that corrects and enhances learning skills.
Imagine attending a guitar class where some of the students have a full complement of six strings on their finely tuned instruments, while others, including you, are supplied with a guitar with missing strings and other strings that are woefully out of tune. How much more difficult or even impossible would it be for you to learn the music being taught? Your frustration level would mount. After a succession of failures, you would likely give up, play a simpler tune, goof off in class, try to find a different instrument (the triangle perhaps?), or just throw the instrument down in unadulterated frustration and feelings of failure.
This is basically how we deal with children in the public school system. Children lacking in one or more of the six cognitive learning skills face a similar challenge, even in a home school environment. Generally, these children are expected to work harder using the skills they do have (working to their strengths), obtain accommodations (like extra time or verbal instead of written responses to tests), or work with approved modifications (decreased homework). Basically we are talking 504 and IEP options.
Unfortunately, once out of the school environment, such options are not available. Just because someone needs more time doesn’t mean the week is going to magically have more hours in the day for him or her. Accommodations and modifications are crutches that do not prepare our students for the “real world”. When they do enter the work force, they are at a huge disadvantage and often settle for no advanced degrees, lower paying jobs, and a lifetime of frustrations and self-esteem issues.
The one and only acceptable approach is not available through our regular academic approach to learning disabilities. Using our guitar analogy – How about we just restring the guitar, tune up the existing strings, and refurbish the entire instrument? Instead of tiptoeing around the missing or broken learning skills, lets tackle them head on and fix them. PACE can help create new neural pathways – in essence restringing the guitar of a mind. Read on to find out more about this exciting program that has lifelong lasting results. An astounding 98.7% of PACE students who are retested a year after completing the program test at or above their final test levels!
Purpose and Background
The Processing and Cognitive Enhancement Program (PACE) was developed to train cognitive skills. We affectionately refer to it as “mental boot camp.”
To train cognitive learning skills, PACE applies the most recent scientific research on learning. Too often, this type of information sits on universities’ shelves and may not be applied until many years later. Or, the information is ignored because it would require one-on-one instruction, which most educators cannot afford to give. PACE is at the forefront of making sure the most up-to-date information is used.
PACE was founded and is directed by a group of professionals from a variety of disciplines who had a common interest in helping children and adults learn more easily and efficiently. Included in this group are psychologists (in the area of neuropsychology, cognitive psychology, and clinical psychology), specialists in vision and auditory processing, and educators.
Those Who Can Benefit From PACE
Those who can benefit from the program include high or average performers who want to perform mental activities faster and more efficiently, and even better than before, as well as below average performers who have learning difficulties. This information focuses on the below average performer. This type of child or adult has more than one of the following symptoms, which do not improve with just extra work and tutoring:
PACE and The Brain Trainers
PACE is different from some other approaches to learning problems. To understand PACE, one must first understand the different levels of learning.
The following chart list the four main learning levels.
Forming the foundation is the innate stage. This stage represents the genetically determined abilities we have when we enter this world such as suckling, swallowing, grabbing, cooing, smiling, and crying. These reflexes and processes are the result of inborn capabilities and muscle development. They are part of all healthy development.
Supported by these innate capabilities are sensory and motor skills. Sensory skills are the use of senses such as seeing, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. They are responsible for receiving information. Motor skills are related to muscles and movement. They include moving, speaking, and writing. These skills handle our responses to the information our senses receive. Both sensory and motor skills are partly determined by the genetic code and partly learned by our interaction with our environment. The senses and ability to move muscles are present at birth, but the interpretation and coordination must be learned. They can be practiced and trained.
Building upon our sensory and motor skills are cognitive skills. These abilities allow us to process the sensory information we have gathered. Processing includes our ability to attend to, discriminate, analyze, evaluate, and compare information; to recall experiences; and to determine a plan of action. These skills are almost completely learned and are determined by our interactions with our environment and other people.
The top level of the chart is academics. These abilities are the result of instruction in areas such as algebra, reading, and typing. These abilities are not likely to develop on their own, but require teaching. Academic skills are dependent upon the underlying cognitive skills.
So where does PACE fit in? It enhances the cognitive skills level.
Schools, learning disabled (LD) programs, remedial reading, and tutoring all work at academic retraining. Sensory and motor therapies, such as auditory, vision, occupational, and physical therapies, concentrate at the sensory and motor level.
PACE concentrates on those cognitive abilities that process information and that the academic level relies upon. So PACE does not teach academic content, but it will make learning easier and faster.
Causes and Symptoms of People with Deficient Cognitive Processing Skills
For those who are having difficulty learning, the cause could be any one or more of the following: a problem seeing or hearing information, problems expressing themselves through speech or writing, a lack of motivation, a lack of proper instruction, or poor cognitive processing skills.
Learning problems are seldom caused by seeing, hearing, or speech disorders. It is not in the gathering of the information, but rather in the processing that the problem usually rests. Ray Charles, for example is blind, but he certainly can perform! With his processing abilities intact, even blindness could not stop him from learning what he needed to become one of the greatest musicians of his time.
And although a lack of motivation is probably related to the learning problem, it is often the result of the problem – not the cause. If you had to do something that was always hard for you, and you almost always failed, you too would become frustrated and avoid the task. There are only so many times that you will be willing to run into a brick wall before quitting. It hurts too much!
For a practical example of how learning disabilities can lead to a lack of motivation, check out our David Demonstration!
Many children experience this same pain with schoolwork. There are very few children who enter school without expecting to succeed. So when some don’t succeed and they keep getting hurt in their attempts, they start to avoid the pain by avoiding the schoolwork which they feel they cannot do.
If a child’s learning problem is just a lack of instruction, then some extra help or tutoring will allow the child catch up. That is all that is required. PACE is not needed because the problem is not related to poor cognitive processing skills, but rather to a lack of sufficient academic instruction.
There are many children who struggle to learn even with adequate instruction, however. These are the children who would most likely have a cognitive processing problem. They tend to:
Because of these processing problems and the resulting frustration, the student's academic performance, self-esteem, and relationships with family and peers will suffer. If something is not done to correct these deficiencies, the effects will be drastic and could impact future education and vocation choices, as well as earning power. Improving these learning skills can put a student on an equal or better footing than his or her peers. Even an adult struggling with these problems has the opportunity to turn around his or her entire life by fixing the deficient cognitive skills. See Keith’s Journey as an example of this.
Tests and Symptoms
At The Brain Trainers, we do not assume that all learning problems are the result of poor cognitive processing skills or that all children need cognitive training. Instead, we use assessments that probe different areas of processing to see if there are any deficiencies that we can address. Some of the skills we look at include the following:
Attention: the ability to stay on task, even when distractions are present.
Simultaneous Processing: the ability to handle more than one thing at a time (e.g., the ability to recognize a word without sounding it out, to listen to an instructor while taking notes, or to drive a car while carrying on a conversation or singing to music.)
Sequential Processing: the ability to link a series of inputs over time (a skill required for reading so that the beginner can blend a series of sounds to create words and the advanced reader can link a series of words to understand the story or idea).
Planning: the ability to decide how you are going to solve a problem, make sure it gets done, check it for mistakes, and modify as needed.
Processing speed: the ability to perform cognitive tasks quickly—an important skill for complex tasks or tasks that have many steps (e.g., if we are dividing two numbers in our head but processing is slow, we might forget an earlier calculation before we are done and have to start all over again—we took longer to do the problem than our ability to remember).
Short-term memory (STM or SM): the ability to store and recall small amounts of information about the current situation. People with STM problems may need to look several times at something before copying, have problems following instructions, or need to have information repeated often.
Long-term memory (LTM or LM): the ability to recall information that was stored in the past when needed. It is very important for spelling, recalling facts on tests, and comprehension.
Auditory processing: the ability to perceive, analyze, and conceptualize what is heard. It is critical in beginning reading and spelling because it includes hearing, identifying, and blending sounds, as well as sounding out words.
Visual processing: the ability to perceive, analyze, and think in visual images. This includes visualization, which is the ability to create a picture in your mind. Those who have a problem with visual processing may reverse letters or have difficulty following instructions, reading maps, doing word math problems, and comprehending.
Cognitive Skills are Learned and Can Be Improved
The cognitive skills discussed previously are learned and, therefore, can be improved.
We know that cognitive skills can be enhanced not only because we can see changes through observation and tests, but also because there is evidence derived from brain research as well.
Recent research suggests that stimulating the mind with mental exercise may cause brain cells, called neurons, to branch widely. This branching causes millions of additional connections, or synapses, between brain cells. Arnold Scheibel, the former director of UCLA’s Brain Research Institute, suggests that we think of it as a computer with a bigger memory board that allows you “to do things more quickly.”
Others studies demonstrate that our brains develop throughout our lives and that they are constantly being modified.
In addition, Life magazine recently featured the idea of “Brain Calisthenics” in the article “Building a Better Brain.” The article stated, that “evidence is accumulating that the brain works a lot like a muscle—the harder you use it, the more it grows. Although scientists had long believed the brain’s circuitry was hard-wired by adolescence and inflexible in adulthood, its newly discovered ability to change and adapt is apparently with us well into old age. Best of all, this research has opened up an exciting world of possibilities.”
These studies show that by using proper training methods, one can target, modify, and develop the brain to improve deficiencies. And the fastest and most efficient way to do this is through cognitive training exercises that specifically and directly target a deficient skill.
PACE focuses on enhancing and improving those processing skills that will bring about the biggest impact on learning. The processing skills that will do this are the deficient cognitive skills underlying the learning problem.
However, if an individual’s problems are not caused by poor cognitive skills, then PACE will be unable to help. But we will do all we can to help you get the proper help elsewhere. Moreover, at The Brain Trainers we do not tutor or teach school subjects. Rather, we help develop the underlying skills that can make a significant impact on an individual’s ability to learn so that he or she will have the chance to catch up and/or get ahead.
Unlike programs that take 12 to 18 months and produce very gradual changes, the PACE program makes very significant changes in only 12 weeks. This is extremely important, because children and adults with learning skill deficiencies must see changes quickly to overcome a lifetime (no matter how short that lifetime has been) of negative results.
If someone sees changes in his or her performance, it will raise their self-esteem. This, in turn, will make them want to work at improving their skills even more. In fact, by the second session of PACE, all students are able to name the 43 presidents of the United States both forwards and BACKWARDS! This technique develops memory and visualization strategies and improves the ability to create mental images. Creation of mental images helps with comprehension, memory, and organizational skills. And this is only one technique used in this innovative program!
Children are encouraged, after completing this task, to go to school and recite the presidents in front of the class. This does amazing things for the self-esteem of a young child, especially one who normally struggles in school. Teachers, peers, and parents will know the child’s abilities are far greater than before, and so will the child. Adults may also try this in a social setting if they feel inclined. This is only the beginning of many great things to follow. The student will look forward to other tasks presented in the program with the same anticipated and realized improvements. As a result, self-esteem will soar!
One-on-one training is extremely important, especially when one considers that a child in public education in the United States gets only an average of six and a half hours of one-on-one instruction over a 13-year period. PACE provides 60 to 80 hours of one-on-one training over 12 weeks. This is not a do-it-alone workbook with periodic involvement by a teacher. There is constant interaction between the student and the trainer for the full training session.
There are two reasons for one-on-one training. The first is feedback. When the student in our PACE program does something correctly, he or she is praised. When an error is made known, he or she is able to make the necessary correction right then and there. This immediate feedback allows faster learning.
The second reason for one-on-one training is sequencing. Sequencing means the program is personalized to the student’s deficiencies and needs. If a task is too difficult, the student becomes frustrated. If the task is too easy, the student becomes bored. The Brain Trainers will use PACE and design each task to be challenging and then slightly increase the demand of the tasks to force the deficient skills to improve.
It is very intense but children and adults alike love the intensity when it is presented in this fashion with the challenge and improvements capable of being seen quickly. Think about the hours that children (and yes, many of us adults) spend playing video games like “Mario Brothers.” These games are based on sequencing and immediate feedback. They become addicting. PACE is as well, and many students can’t believe it when a session is over as time flies quickly when you’re having fun. This is a fabulous change in the life of a struggling student!
First, when a child is the student, both parents need to understand the problem the child has and the consequences those problems could have on the child’s life.
Second, we need to establish at the onset the parents' degree of involvement and the time they are willing to commit to help us with their child. Unless we believe that your child can make a significant improvement, we will not start your child in the program.
Adult students must make the same determination and we encourage them to have a strong family or friend support system during the program.
PACE is offered in several variations by The Brain Trainers. The student can be trained one hour a day, five days a week by a certified PACE provider for 12 weeks. Another option offers more family involvement. The student is trained one hour a day three days a week at The Brain Trainers and a minimum of three extra hours a week is done as home training, with a parent or other adult. Other time variations are possible and can be discussed on a case by case basis. In any case, we are looking at approximately 72 hours of training over a 12 week period for completion of the program. We now offer an on-line version of PACE called BrainSkills, as well as an on -line testing evaluation tool called The Gibson Test of Brain Skills
The intensity of the program is evident when looking at these numbers, but the results are even more impressive. Many tutoring and training sessions guarantee their services, but when you look at the fine print the benefits just aren't there. Below is a study done in 2001 using data from students who opted for the 36 hours of training with a PACE provider, with at least an additional 36 hours done in a home study environment. One of the charts reflects testing results used by the PACE unique assesment test called The Gibson Cognitive Test Battery. The second reflects results using the Woodcock-Johnson II test battery. The results speak volumes for the efficacy of this program. 98.7% of students retested a year after their completion of the program scored at or above their post test results. These are lifelong learning skills changes!