Introducing the Beatalk technique: using beatbox sounds and rhythms to improve speech characteristics of adults with intellectual disability

Int J Lang Commun Disord. 2019 May;54(3):401-416. doi: 10.1111/1460-6984.12445. Epub 2018 Nov 27.


Background: Individuals with intellectual disability (ID) often demonstrate speech impairments and reduced intelligibility. However, traditional treatment methods, which involve using repetitive verbal and non-verbal exercises, may not be fully suitable for this population. As adults with ID tend to lose interest and motivation facing the demands of a typical speech therapy session, other intervention methods are needed. The current study tested a novel intervention technique, Beatalk, based on practising vocally produced sounds and rhythms, imitating the sounds produced by rhythm machines in an a cappella musical context (i.e., human beatboxing). Human beatboxing may be a particularly effective tool since it involves intense production of speech sounds (phonemes) that can be misarticulated in the presence of speech disorders; it is relatively easy to learn and practice, and is also considered 'fun'.

Aims: As many of the features of beatboxing make it a promising method for speech therapy, this pioneering study aimed to examine its effectiveness in comparison with a traditional speech therapy.

Methods & procedures: Twelve adults with moderate ID and low speech intelligibility (age 24-48 years) participated in a speech therapy group for 6 weeks. Six participants were assigned to the Beatalk (study) group and six to a traditional (control) therapy group. Pre- to post-treatment changes in speech intelligibility and voice measures were assessed.

Outcomes & results: The preliminary data demonstrate that both types of therapy groups resulted in improved performance in articulation accuracy and voice measures, yet the Beatalk technique yielded larger gains.

Conclusions & implications: The results present initial evidence for the beneficial effect of the Beatalk technique as an intervention tool for adults with ID. It is an easy-to-use technique in the context of speech therapy, and may enhance verbal communication skills in this population.

Keywords: Beatalk; Isato Beatbox; human beatboxing; intellectual disability; speech impairments; speech intelligibility.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Music Therapy / methods*
  • Phonation / physiology
  • Speech Articulation Tests / methods
  • Speech Disorders / etiology*
  • Speech Disorders / physiopathology
  • Speech Disorders / therapy*
  • Speech Intelligibility
  • Speech Therapy / methods*
  • Young Adult