Christian Allyn, 9, and PACE provider Lisa Pearson take a break by a wall that is a replica of one of the work sheets in the program. One exercise involves reading all the words across each line – to the beat of a metronome – and then repeating the exercise by saying the colour of each word. By VIKKI HOPES Abbotsford News  February 10, 2005

Christian Allyn was struggling with his homework. His report card didn’t reflect his challenges – he usually produced A’s – but his difficulties in getting his thoughts down on paper resulted in frustration at home.“He just wanted to give up and not do it anymore,” said his mom, Leanne. She, too, struggled – to understand why Christian was having so much trouble with school work.

Then she saw a newspaper ad about a program called PACE (Processing and Cognitive Enhancement), for kids between the ages of six and 19. She met with program provider Lisa Pearson, decided it was just what her son needed, and signed Christian up.

The Grade 4 MEI student is the first “graduate” of the 12-week program, and now Leanne wants others to know what a difference it has made in her son’s life.

“The big thing I see in him now is he’s willing to work hard and he doesn’t give up . . . He knows what he has to do to get the job done,” she said.Christian, 9, agrees that PACE has made a tremendous difference. “Before PACE, I would just daydream off. . . If it was too much of an effort, I didn’t want to do it,” he said. “It’s a lot better now . . . Sometimes now I daydream but only for not even a minute.”

PACE is a program offered throughout the United States – it was developed in Colorado Springs – but is relatively new to Canada.Pearson is the only one offering it in Abbotsford, through the Accomplished Learning Centre on Ventura Avenue. She was so intent on the program, after researching its benefits, that she traveled to Colorado for training. Now that she’s putting it into action with kids, she is even more sold on what it can do to assist a child’s learning.

“I’ve had parents say to me that within two or three sessions, they start to notice improvement in their kids’ attention,” she said.

Pearson said that PACE works by developing “thinking skills” such as auditory processing, planning, memory, visual processing, comprehension, and logic and reasoning. In layman’s terms, this can assist a child who “may be able to see or hear information but cannot identify, interpret, comprehend, remember or stay on task,” says a PACE brochure. A series of exercises are practiced three times a week in one-hour sessions with Pearson, as well as at home. Kids work through different levels.

Pearson said the goal is to get children to think faster, stay focused and improve their attention. For example, one exercise involves the child following several lines of arrows positioned across a page. The child must verbalize which direction the arrow is pointing – left, right, up or down – to the one-second beat of a metronome. Another exercise involves memorizing long lists of words. The kids are taught to do this by creating a visual story to go along with each word.

Christian was able to memorize all the Canadian prime ministers and U.S. presidents using a picture that tells a story incorporating all their names.

Pearson likens this kind of training to learning a skill such as golfing or swimming. These tasks require practice and lessons to improve upon. She said PACE works the same way – it trains the brain and leads to an improvement in skills.

“They (kids) may have access to the information (at school), but if they’re not learning it as well or as quickly as they can, by getting their brain to work better, they’re going to do better,” Pearson said.

All PACE clients are evaluated before they start the program to see what learning deficiencies they might have. They are re-evaluated at the end of the 12-week program. In Christian’s case, he improved in all areas, with an average increase of 4.6 years. One of his biggest improvements was in “logic and reasoning.” He jumped from a level of 7.5 years to 16.3 years. In “visual processing,” he went from 10.5 to 16 years.

Pearson said PACE is a applicable for a range of children, including those who have been labeled with a learning disability. She refers to a sentence in book, called Why Our Children Can’t Read and What We Can Do About It (by Diane McGuinness), in supporting how effective a program like PACE is in training auditory-linguistic skills: “These skills are so trainable, at any age, that the terms ‘dyslexia’ or ‘learning disabilities’ cease to have any meaning.”

Pearson said more people need to know about PACE and what it can do to change their lives.

“There are lots of people we can help and lots of kids who have trouble in school who don’t need to have trouble in school,” Pearson said.

For more information about PACE, call 604-539-1386.