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Craig Hospital Aphasia Therapy (CHAT)

What Is Aphasia?

Aphasia is a language disorder that impacts a person's ability to access, use and/or understand language. It results from damage to the areas of the brain that promote production or understanding of language through various modalities (e.g., speaking, listening, writing, reading, signing, gesturing, etc.). On a practical level, aphasia can make it difficult for a person to communicate in many ways. For example, a person may struggle to speak in complete sentences when telling a friend about their weekend, have trouble finding the specific word he/she wants to say when ordering at a restaurant, have difficulty reading a friend's Facebook status update, or be unable to write a text message to a family member.

Aphasia Program Summary

The Craig Hospital Aphasia Therapy (CHAT) Program offers specialized, intensive outpatient therapy for individuals with aphasia as a result of traumatic or other acquired brain injury. This evidence-based, specialized program will strive to improve the quality of life of persons living with this communication disorder and provide comprehensive, diverse and patient-centered treatment approaches.

Our mission is to provide an intensive, comprehensive, goal-oriented program to maximize the level of independence, quality of life and self-efficacy of persons with aphasia. There are only a handful of intensive aphasia programs in the country, and the CHAT Program is one of only two intensive aphasia treatment programs west of the Mississippi River. Because the program clinician is bilingual, the CHAT Program is able to serve both English and Spanish speakers. Physician orders are required for participation.

Aphasia Program Components

Participants will participate in a three (3) week intensive language program that includes pre- and post- assessment. The treatment program will consist of three (3) hours of individual speech-language therapy a day over a span of 15 consecutive business days. The participant will receive a minimum of 15 hours per week, with additional therapy options if appropriate. These therapies include speech-language group, neurologic music therapy, assistive technology, therapeutic recreation and therapeutic yoga.

CHAT Goals

The goals of the CHAT Program are to improve the quality of life, independence and self-efficacy of persons living with aphasia through the use of diverse, patient-centered treatment approaches. Gains achieved include improvements in standardized test scores, story-telling abilities and increased confidence and success when communicating with family and friends. Included in the program is caregiver training that teaches how to best support successful communication outside of the clinic.

Aphasia Program Dates

The CHAT Program will be offered on an ongoing, year-round basis. In one calendar year, 12 cycles of the intensive aphasia program are possible.

Inclusion/Exclusion Criteria

Each patient will be screened for appropriateness of fit prior to acceptance into the program. The basic inclusion criteria for all applicants are as follows:

  • Must have an aphasia diagnosis
  • Must be able to tolerate at least 3 hours of individual therapy per day
  • Must have basic comprehension abilities (e.g., be able to consistently follow simple directions, be able to consistently understand yes/no questions)
  • Must have 1-2 identified language goals that are specific and concrete

Aphasia Treatment Principles

While each person with aphasia is unique, research has demonstrated improvement in language function following intensive therapy regardless of severity, type of aphasia, education, age or stage of recovery. Craig Hospital's intensive aphasia program is built upon a variety of evidence-based treatment methods that target speaking, listening, reading, writing and/or drawing. For example, Intensive Language Action Therapy (also known as Constraint-Induced Aphasia Therapy) may be used to target speaking.

For more information, contact:
Kristen Mascareñas Wendling, MA, CCC-SLP
CHAT Program Coordinator

Download the CHAT Program Brochure


The CHAT Program is also able to offer comprehensive intensive therapy programs virtually. The CHAT Program has offered over 400 hours of high-quality, effective Telehealth Services to date. To learn more about the CHAT Program's therapy options (in-person, virtual) and/or to make a referral, please contact Kristen Mascareñas Wendling, program coordinator, at 303-789-8126 or

Team Members

  • Kim Frey Director of Speech-Language Pathology

    Speech and Language Therapy

    Kim Frey, PhD, CCC-SLP, CBIS, is the Director of Speech-Language Pathology and joined Craig in 2013. She received her B.S. in Communication from the University of Tulsa in 1993, her M.S. in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1995, and a dual PhD in Cognitive Science and Speech, Language, & Hearing Sciences from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2013. For 14 years, she worked in inpatient neurologic rehabilitation and also researched cognitive impairment due to stroke, traumatic brain injury, and viral illness. Subsequently, she became an Instructor in the Neurobehavioral Disorders Program in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. In this program, she served as Director of the Constraint Induced Aphasia Therapy clinic and was also the study coordinator for a double-blind, placebo controlled pharmacologic and cognitive rehabilitation trial for persons with traumatic brain injury. She has presented nationally and internationally and published on several topics including neurobehavioral disorders following stroke, traumatic brain injury, and West Nile virus and also a water protocol for persons with dysphagia related to stroke.

  • Kristen Mascareñas Wendling Aphasia Program Coordinator

    Speech and Language Therapy

    Kristen Mascareñas Wendling, MA, CCC-SLP, is the Craig Hospital Aphasia Therapy (CHAT) program coordinator and program clinician with nearly a decade of aphasia experience. Her bilingual certification allows her to work effectively with both English and Spanish speakers.

  • Betsy Batts Speech Pathologist

    Speech and Language Therapy

  • Katie Cassady Speech Pathologist

    Speech and Language Therapy

    Katie Cassady, MA, CCC-SLP, CBIS, RYT-500.

  • Annamarie Engelhard Music Therapist

    Speech and Language Therapy

    Annamarie Engelhard, MT-BC.

  • Sarah Foley Speech Pathologist

    Speech and Language Therapy

    Sarah Foley, MS, CCC/SLP, ATP, joined Craig Hospital in 2007 from HealthSouth Chesapeake Rehabilitation in Salisbury, MD. Her areas of expertise include augmentative and alternative communication, swallow function, cognition, and treatment of combined spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries.


  • Erin Leary Speech Pathologist

    Speech and Language Therapy

    Erin Leary, MA, CCC/SLP.


"I'm lucky to find this program and very lucky Craig has generous [donors]. CHAT saved my life."

Michael Hassett

Artist and stroke survivor