What makes our BEAT Rockers music education program innovative is the added benefit of improved speech for students with disabilities. We noticed the correlation between speech therapy and beatboxing after a decade of teaching beatboxing at the Lavelle School for the Blind. Over the years, parents, staff, and our instructors noticed improvements in vocalization, articulation, expressiveness, and many other speech-related delays. More students were collaborating with other students to create new music and perform. As a result, their confidence has grown and they take more initiative in classroom participation.
We are excited to see pioneering research (shown below) that reveals the benefits of beatboxing on the brain and speech. We want to make beatboxing accessible and available to all children. Our goal is to prove through clinical research what we’ve observed through testimonials from our students, their parents and families, and SLPs: that beatboxing is a fun music program that also can aid in improving speech.
As Heather Rusiewicz, Associate Professor in the Department of Speech-Language Pathology at Duquesne University, observes: “[T]he fundamental techniques of beatboxing, such as sound production, rhythm, and self-expression, can be capitalized upon for speech sound intervention.”
By definition, beatboxing is the art of making music by manipulating your lips and mouth. These are precisely the same qualities inherent to all languages, thus making beatboxing particularly useful for speech goals related to articulation, enunciation, and pronunciation.
In particular, a study in The International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders (IJLCD), “Introducing the Beatalk technique: using beatbox sounds and rhythms to improve speech characteristics of adults with intellectual disability” (Michal Icht, Nov 2018) concluded:
Following a 6-week group intervention, the Beatalk participants showed greater improvement (relative to controls, who participated in a traditional speech therapy group) in articulation accuracy and voice measures.
These initial results suggest that the Beatalk technique may be suitable for promoting verbal communication of adults with ID [Intellectual Disabilities]. This technique involves relatively intense orofacial exercises, is easy to learn and enjoyable to practise.These features, along with the advantages of group music making, seem to enhance the effectiveness of speech therapy.
We believe that every child should enjoy music and want to make beatboxing accessible and available to all children. Our vision is to see our BEAT Rockers program offered at every school and institution serving people with disabilities nationwide.
Introducing the Beatalk Technique: Using Beatbox Sounds and Rhythms to Improve Speech Characteristics of Adults With Intellectual Disability, led by Michal Icht from Department of Communication Disorders, Ariel University, Ariel, Israel (Nov 2018): “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'.”
Breaking Down the Beat: The Art and Science of Beatboxing, led by Dr. Shrikanth Narayanan of University of Southern California Speech Production and Articulation Knowledge Group (Nov 2018): “Beatboxing, singing, and other forms of music are all organized in the same way: small parts make up bigger parts. Like speech, they also have chunks and phrases. But, unlike in speech, musicians usually need to keep a steady beat—and beatboxers need this most of all. Do they still slow down and speed up their movements to convey phrasing? Or, do they produce phrases a different way?”
Beatboxers and Guitarists Engage Sensorimotor Regions Selectively When Listening to the Instruments They can Play, led by Dr Saloni Krishnan and Dr. Sophie Scott from UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience (Sept 2018): The researchers found that the area of the brain that controls mouth movements was particularly active when beatboxers listened to a previously unheard beatboxing track, while the 'hand area' of the guitarists' brains showed heightened activity when they listened to guitar playing. This study is one example of how beatboxing is revealing the many lessons the human voice has on how our minds interface with our bodies. The researchers say the findings help to understand the brain networks involved in auditory perception, which may also have implications for speech and language therapy. "Perhaps more research could tell us whether beatboxing might be a way to get people to re-engage their vocal cords with the act of making speech-related sounds, for people who have lost the mechanical ability to produce speech," added Professor Scott.
Breaking Down The Science Of Beatboxing (Science Friday, Nov 2018): “Scientists scanned beatboxers in a MRI machine to figure out how these musicians manipulate their vocal tracts to keep the beat. They found that beatboxers may use parts of their vocal tract in a way different way than is used when speaking. In fact, some of the sounds were unlike any found in human language. Linguist Reed Blaylock and beatboxer Devon Guinn break down how beatboxers coordinate their lips, tongue and throat to create a beat and how this compares to human speech.”
Beatboxing may be a surprising new form of speech therapy (BBC News, Nov 2018): “Beatboxing has long been associated with the hip hop world. But creating beats is not only a form of self-expression; it could help to unlock the full potential behind the human voice, especially for those with a speech impediment.”
How beatboxing can help young people with speech problems (CBC radio, July 2018): “She realised that beatboxing was a way to make it fun and worked with the therapist, adding beatboxing sounds to the letters Brendan was being asked to articulate. After Kaila started helping him with beatboxing, he was able to pronounce letters and words more easily. “He went from a non-verbal kid to complete sentences, complete talking,” said Brendan’s Mum, Karen Mullady. “He can talk to his friends; he can go out and have a full life.”.
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