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 learning disability 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.