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

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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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)401-416
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Language and Communication Disorders
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 May 2019


  • Beatalk
  • Isato Beatbox
  • human beatboxing
  • intellectual disability
  • speech impairments
  • speech intelligibility


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