Perceptual Enrichment Program

The Perceptual Enrichment Program (PEP) is a short-term cognitive intervention that was developed by occupational therapist Patricia Theisen, MS, OTR, in the 1980s. Courses of PEP usually run eight to ten sessions. PEP is often used as a component of long-term occupational therapy to help children and adults develop spatial skills, improve time management, and cultivate problem-solving and organizational abilities.

Possible Uses

PEP has been shown to be effective for children and adults with a range of conditions, from severe brain injury to mild cognitive impairment. Because it can be helpful for cognitive development, PEP is often prescribed for patients with a variety of diagnoses. These include paralysis, traumatic brain injury, ADHD, and executive functioning delays, among others.

How It Works

Courses of PEP are sequences of hand-on exercises that increase in complexity as the patient builds mastery. At the beginning of the course, the patient is tested for his or her baseline cognitive performance. At the end, they participate in an additional evaluation to determine their progress.

PEP session exercises may include puzzles and perceptual problems that stimulate spatial recognition patterning and abstract reasoning and logic. Theisen designed the PEP curriculum to create new neural pathways and facilitate the coordination of both brain hemispheres. With exercises in matching, memory recall, shape recognition and identifying parts of a whole, children are able to better understand how letters form words and how words form sentences.

Pediatric occupational therapy clinic OT 4 Kids prescribes PEP for the following:

  • Handwriting and drawing ability, spatial planning and execution
  • Processing and integrating information
  • Problem solving and organization
  • Integrating skills
  • Bilateral coordination
  • Improved ability to manage homework independently
  • Academic performance
  • Self-confidence
  • In Share International Magazine, author Josephine Chaudoin describes observing Patricia Theisen guiding young patients through courses of PEP:

    “She uses certain educational games for verbal response, simple Lego puzzles that develop visual spatial relationships, sequence cards in colors and forms to develop organizational skills such as planning ahead, and analogies and reasoning tests. Her technique provides an atmosphere of loving understanding and patience, creating a sense of enjoyment rather than competition. It fosters the discovery that limitations to the expansion of the mind and brain are, in fact, illusions.

    I observed a 17-month-old baby, partially paralyzed, learning to use an arm normally through encouraging her in play situations that required both arms. I also saw a highly intelligent but hyperactive five-year-old boy who, through the course, increased his ability to concentrate. With some children the change in grades on report cards and to orderliness at home is remarkable. They also relate to other people well because they have gained confidence in themselves.”

    Things To Consider

    Since most courses of PEP are administered as components of longer-term occupational therapy, you may want to discuss how PEP fits into the larger vision of your child’s treatment plan and what you can do to support your child’s perceptual learning progress at home.