Philosophy and Mission

Learn what drives P.A.C.E.

ul 5.13.13

Philosophy and Mission

The P.A.C.E. Mission

The P.A.C.E. program is a leader in the provision of integrated, postsecondary services to young adults with multiple learning disabilities. Our goal is to empower students with the skills necessary to become productive and independent adults living and working in the larger community.

Through instruction and support in all aspects of the students’ lives, the P.A.C.E. program strives to create an environment in which:

  • Work is accomplished
  • Play is learned
  • Love is felt
  • Life is enjoyed

The P.A.C.E. Philosophy

The P.A.C.E. philosophy is based on the work of the late Nicholas Hobbs, Ph.D., a pioneer in the field of special education. Hobbs (1915-1983) was the founding director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development at Vanderbilt University—and the recipient of the Distinguished Contributions to Psychology in the Public Interest Award by the American Psychological Association in 1980. ­­­­­

The P.A.C.E. Program is grounded in the belief that all students can achieve a higher potential through instruction and the opportunity to practice concepts learned in a real world setting. Although all students succeed at differing rates or levels, each is capable of growth and movement toward living safely and productively in the broader community. The P.A.C.E. Program encourages supports, and instructs students in their efforts to reach the goal of independence.

While in the P.A.C.E. Program, all experiences are important in the growth process. Students are taught to balance between work, play, and responsibility. Challenges are expected, and serve as a platform for teaching and learning. Students are encouraged to become more confident and knowledgeable in their ability to make decisions, build relationships, work successfully, and solve problems, both with support and on their own.

Life is To Be Lived Now

The P.A.C.E. program reflects the following values and philosophy: Each hour of the day is important— and each day holds the promise of a successful experience in living. When there is trust between the students, faculty and staff, the students will take extraordinary steps in their personal development.

Time is An Ally

Change cannot be rushed and growth will happen in its own time—often suddenly and sometimes extraordinarily, as students develop. P.A.C.E. students have qualities that are not necessarily reflected in standard psychological testing. The range and degree of their learning disabilities often mask their special skills and talents. However, with time, instruction and motivation in a supportive atmosphere, those abilities can be nurtured and encouraged.

Competence is Crucial

The ability to do something well is valued by society. The program is designed to convince students they can be, and are, competent—and that they are capable of more. Success in one area is often the catalyst for success in other areas of their lives.

Inappropriate Behavior Can be Controlled

Although inappropriate social behavior is a common characteristic of young adults with learning disabilities, acceptance in society depends in part on social competency skills gained from interaction with peers without disabilities. Students are responsible for their own behavior—and for the effect it has on others. Through trial and error, with support during all phases of the learning process, taking ownership of feelings and behavior is necessary for self-sufficiency.

Intelligence Can be Taught

The P.A.C.E. program gives students the tools to engage in abstract thinking and problem solving— and enhancing their cognitive competence to improve their decision-making. Instruction is a central part of the foundation and culture of the program and students are engaged in learning communities in the classroom, the residence hall and in the workplace.

Feelings Should be Nurtured

Managing emotions and feelings is not easy for most young adults. P.A.C.E. students are encouraged to share their feelings with others and learn to manage them appropriately. More than anything else, P.A.C.E. students want to “fit in” and the program provides many opportunities for practicing and observing skills necessary to build a strong sense of self-esteem and identity.

The Group is Important

Interactions at many levels, including applause, reinforcement, caring, respect, encouragement, tolerance, criticism and concern, contribute to a strong sense of community and belonging. Relationships are at the heart of the program—providing a bridge between the familiarity of home and family to the larger community.

Problem Solving is More Effective

When the ability to handle a situation fails, resulting in misbehavior, problem solving rather than behavior modification shows the students how to gain ownership and control over their behavior and decisions. “Life is full of problems; all problems have solutions” is one of the fundamental tenets of P.A.C.E.—and solving problems big and small helps move students into a more independent lifestyle.

Joy Must Be Experienced

The capacity for joy is important for the well-being of the human spirit—and it is therapeutic for each P.A.C.E. student to experience joy every day. Since P.A.C.E. students must live in the “real world,” some of that joy comes from age-appropriate activities that take place in the communities where they live and learn.


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