Program Components

The University of Michigan Aphasia Program, often just called UMAP, is an intensive speech-language program that helps people recover or learn new communication techniques after trauma to the language centers in the brain.

Our clients come from different backgrounds, represent a spectrum of ages, and live in all different parts of the world. Yet, they have one thing in common: Aphasia.

All of our clients have experienced a brain trauma (through a stroke, injury, or illness) that has left them without the ability to speak, read, write and/or comprehend language in the ways they once did. Our program is designed to help you or your loved one strengthen communication abilities and work toward recovery from aphasia, while creating a community of those who share this experience.

Our intensive program, the first in the country, is built on research, our clinical experience, and feedback from our clients. Our program has been used as a model for other programs and has shown to be effective for people of all abilities. While we rely on our experience and what we know to work, we also continually explore new therapy methods and stay on the cutting edge to provide the best combination of care.

Continue down the page for more details on the components.

“The therapists go above and beyond just the ‘trying to speak and communicate’ portion of the therapy. They also help with the clients’ other individual struggles.”Husband of UMAP client

UMAP Overview

  • Sessions run 3-5 weeks
  • 24 hours of therapy each week
  • Group therapy
  • Social and recreational activities
  • Music therapy
  • Computer and technology learning
  • Caregiver curriculum
  • Tailored to you
  • Full time, but part time options are also available
  • Customized exit plan so you can continue your progress at home
  • NEW: Teletherapy for current and former clients in Michigan and California

Program Details

We accept clients of all communication abilities, from those with severe difficulties speaking and understanding, to those who have only minimal speech and language impairments. We ask that each client be medically stable before attending the program.

Some clients come to the office for an evaluation prior to enrolling in the program, but it is not required. We will coordinate with you to schedule an evaluation (it can be performed during the first day of the session) or to gain access to a previously performed evaluation. If unable to make it to UMAP for an evaluation before joining the session, we would still like to speak with the client in order to best tailor our course of treatment. This is why we also request medical records — ultimately the more information we have, the better your time at UMAP will be spent.

If you have the opportunity to do a pre-assessment, we recommend it for the following reasons:

  • An evaluation allows us to determine the type of speech-language issues a client exhibits, develop a personalized communication profile, and make specific therapy recommendations. This allows the client to begin therapy almost immediately when entering UMAP, rather than spending much of the first day in assessment.
  • Coming to UCLL for an evaluation also allows clients to tour our facility and meet other clients and caregivers who can offer their perspectives on the program.

After the evaluation is completed, the primary clinician meets with the client and his or her caregiver. The client’s performance is reviewed and therapy goals are suggested. The primary clinician works with the client and caregiver to finalize therapy objectives that are bothe realistic and targeted to areas of greatest importance. Intensive therapy is initiated based on these goals.

Throughout the monthly session, the primary clinician and team members communicate frequently with both the client and caregiver about goals and progress, re-evaluating and adjusting as needed to ensure the greatest success and satisfaction with therapy. We’re here for you — our approach combines our expertise with your goals and abilities, working toward maximizing your ability to participate in your life.

The one-on-one therapy is designed to target specific goals, which are developed from baseline testing and conversations with you and your family. For example, if you are a real estate agent and you would like to work on language skills that will help you get back to your job, we can set specific goals and work with your level of abilities to move along that path.

Individual sessions use a variety of communication strategies. While each client has a primary speech-language pathologist they work with, you will also work with other therapists during your time at UMAP. Our clients and their family members have consistently noted this as one of the strengths of the program.

Individual therapy targets:

  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Memory
  • Cognition
  • Multimodal communication

Learn strategies to enhance verbal skills, such as:

  • Drawing
  • Gesturing
  • Using an iPod or iPad
  • Writing
  • Using a communication book (we provide the starter book)

Caregivers and loved ones are encouraged to participate in the individual therapy as well.

At first, it can seem daunting to have to communicate in a group when experiencing language difficulties, but we have found the communication group component to be one of the most popular aspects of our program.

Even among those who are reluctant at first, re-learning communication skills and exploring new ones in a supportive atmosphere among peers leads to improved self-confidence and growing hope. Clients encourage each other to try new ways of communicating and reinforce each other’s successes. Behaviors learned in individual therapy are put to use in a naturalistic, supportive, and dynamic context in the group therapy sessions.

Groups are based on client interests and may include:

  • Travel
  • Gardening
  • Cooking
  • Sports
  • Computer technology
Technology is so important to communicating in today’s world — and it’s only becoming a larger piece. For some, learning technology comes naturally and for others, it can still be a bit intimidating. We work with clients at their comfort level while encouraging that they stretch their knowledge.

Clients receive training and practice time on:

  • Communicating via email
  • Searching the web
  • Connecting with web communities
  • Using devices like iPads, Kindles, etc. to stay connected
  • Apps to use on your phone
  • Other specialized technological communication tools as needed
We have seen music act in astounding ways in speech-language recovery. It can be a bridge back to the world for someone feeling cut off from the people and things they love. Music can stimulate verbal expression and even when someone with aphasia can’t speak, they can sometimes sing lyrics. It also improves listening skills. Under the direction of a certified music therapist, clients learn new ways to express themselves. Many clients discover latent musical talents. Some re-learn how to play a musical instrument or songs from their past.

There is a musical performance at the end of each UMAP session, which is guaranteed to lift spirits. Don’t worry if you’re not a songbird — all voices are welcome here.

Music therapy includes:

  • Group and individual singing
  • Learning instruments
  • Reading music
  • Listening to music and lyrics
  • Having fun while working toward language recovery!
Our program isn’t just all work! We employ the Life Participation Approach to speech-language therapy, and that includes some social time built into the intensive therapy schedule. Weekly social-recreational activities allow you and your loved ones to explore Ann Arbor, practice communication in real-world settings, and foster meaningful relationships with other clients and caregivers in the program.

  • In-house recreational activities: During in-house activities, student volunteers help clients cook, bake and play video games, trivia games, cards, and more. We do what you like to do, so let us know ahead of time and we can prepare.
  • Sporting events such as Detroit Tigers baseball games or University of Michigan games.
  • Outings to local Ann Arbor sites: For example, tours of the Michigan Stadium a.k.a. “The Big House” or local museums.
  • Dinner Club: Exploring a new local restaurant each week.
    • Clients and caregivers are encouraged to attend the weekly Dinner Club with UMAP staff at local restaurants. Prior to the evening, clients review the menu, discuss possible dinner choices, and conduct practice sessions for ordering.
    • Dinner Club helps clients to communicate with others with aphasia, caregivers, and the waitstaff at the restaurant. It also allows them to use strategies they have been practicing in their therapy sessions. Many are empowered by the opportunity.

In addition to the in-house activities and Dinner Club, clients and caregivers can also explore Ann Arbor, nearby Detroit or Lansing (each is about 45 minutes by car) or a little further afield to beautiful places like the Lake Michigan shoreline or Traverse City.

These diverse experiences strengthen communication skills and build each client’s confidence, leaving them better prepared to return home with skills that they have practiced in real-world applications.

Part of what makes our program special is the caregiver component. We want to make sure both caregivers and clients are taken care of while working through the intensive program and beyond. Caregivers play an important role in the recovery process. While clients are hard at work in therapy, caregivers are also learning. We provide several ways to help support caregivers each week during the program:

Weekly Caregiver Education

Caregivers are often thrust into the world of aphasia just as startlingly as the person with aphasia. In the midst of all the other things a caregiver has to worry about, learning in-depth about what aphasia is, how it affects people, etc., can get lost. We offer a weekly educational seminar to explore topics that you may not have had time to dig into.

Seminars cover such topics as:

  • What exactly is aphasia?
  • Why intensive therapy?
  • Creating your intensive therapy schedule back home.
  • Computer lab sessions to help caregivers learn the tools their loved one is learning.
  • Conversation techniques and video resources to help support their loved ones.
  • Introduction to the caregiver resource library
  • Hands-on communication practice with both the client and caregiver.
  • The importance of self care as a caregiver, with a focus on recreation and leisure activities.
  • Special topics based on caregiver interest.

Weekly Caregiver Support Group

While the person experiencing aphasia is in the midst of a difficult journey, so is the caregiver. It can be frightening to not know what will happen next, if you will ever be able to communicate with your parent, child or spouse or friend again, while also making sure the household continues to run. The support group helps bring these issues to the open and to share techniques, trials and triumphs with others who are in similar situations.

In the Caring and Coping Support Group, caregivers:

  • Share personal stories about living with someone who has with aphasia.
  • Acquire coping strategies to adjust to a their new lifestyle.
  • Learn to take care of themselves and maintain a social network of friends and family.
  • Learn to be realistic and hopeful about the future with their loved one.

Caregiver Resource Section of the Web

Beyond out program sessions, we have set up a caregiver resource area to help those who may not be able to attend the program yet or those who are just looking for easily accessible, but trusted resources. We have set aside a special area with caregiver resources to help anyone who might need it. Check back periodically as new content is being added continually.

Caregiver Resources Page


At the end of each session, we host a lunch to celebrate the progress of all of our clients. As the session comes to a close, our clinicians work with you and your loved ones to determine next steps of care, how to continue progress at home, and resources that may be of help to you.

We become quite connected with our clients and love to stay in touch. If you or your loved one has questions following your session, please contact us.

We also have many repeat clients who decide to remain or return for additional sessions. If you are interested in continuing your care with UMAP, let us know before you leave or give us a call to talk about your options.

UMAP is now offering teletherapy services to former or current UMAP clients. This means we are providing speech therapy sessions online through live teleconferencing.

Teletherapy is conducted similarly to our in-house therapy sessions — therapy is provided by licensed speech-language pathologists and tailored to each client’s individual needs — but without having to leave home. In order to participate, a client needs access to a computer with a camera and a speaker.

As we launch the program, it will be limited to current or previous UMAP clients to ensure we are able to provide the most personalized and effective care. At this time, our therapists are licensed to practice teletherapy in Michigan and California.

Possible Expansion

Depending on demand, we will pursue licensing in other states to begin expanding the geographic area where we can offer services. If you are a former or current client and you live outside of the current states we offer, please let use know if you are interested in pursuing teletherapy. We will use the interest we receive as a guideline for which states to offer next.

For more information or questions, contact the University Center for Language and Literacy at (734) 764-8440 or email at 

Ready to Take the Next Step?

If you'd like to secure your place in an upcoming UMAP session, this application is the place to begin. Click to open it in a new window to fill in the blanks. (NOTE: When using certain browsers like Chrome, it is best to download and save the form before filling in answers.)

UMAP Application (PDF)


We are happy to discuss our program with you and to help you determine if it is a good fit for you or your loved one. Please call us at (734) 764-8440  or email to get the conversation started.