Enhancing Reading Abilities: The Impact of Bionic Reading on ADHD and Dyslexia

With so many books, and so little time, who wouldn’t like a helping hand in getting some of that backlog read quickly?!

How cool would it be to skim-read a book in an hour and retain all its information?  Or to be able to digest an academic article and not lose focus halfway through? Well, the makers of Bionic Reading are suggesting that such aspirations could now be a reality due to their potentially game-changing app which can be used on all platforms and devices. 

Let’s back up for a second here. Firstly, just to clarify, dyslexia,  – just like ADHD – can affect people in different ways. It’s a language-based learning disability and can affect people’s phonological awareness, verbal memory, and reading processing. Meanwhile, ADHD impacts the executive functions of the brain, making it hard for folks who live with ADHD to concentrate on a single task for very long. Now, the ​developers of Bionic Reading claim​ that their app addresses these challenges by streamlining the reading process, limiting distractions, and improving focus.

What is Bionic reading?

Bionic reading was invented by typographic designer Renato Casutt in 2009, and it consists of bolding a few letters at the start of every word – with the hope that the brain will instinctively recognize the rest of the word. It’s already caused quite an impression and won a series of first prizes in 2023 at the German Design Awards and the German Innovation Awards. 

Proponents insist that it will:

  1. Improve Focus: By the emphasis on key parts of n key parts of words, Bionic Reading purports to help ADHD readers stay focused.
  2. Increase Reading Speed: The method aims to help users read faster by streamlining their attention.
  3. Enhancement of Comprehension: Bionic Reading can promote enhanced comprehension by reducing cognitive overload and directing attention to the most important information.
  4. Better Memory Retention: The technique encourages long-term memory retention by simplifying the reading process.
  5. Boost Motivation: Bionic Reading can make reading more enjoyable for ADHD readers, which could lead to more motivation.
“Hearing respectively reading stories from people in which Bionic Reading® is described as a game or life changer for them is probably hard to top and really touches me every time anew” Renato Casutt 

woman reading a book while sitting on black leather 3-seat couch

Why not see if the app works for you?

But is all this hype justified? Unfortunately, there just hasn’t been enough rigorous research carried out on Bionic Reading to be able to give a clear answer. According to their own website, only one unpublished and inconclusive study by an unnamed Swiss university has taken place. Meanwhile, a master's thesis from the Norwegian University of Bergen put bionic reading to the test with a group of volunteers. The response? “ A large majority strongly disapproved of its readability.” Many critiqued its unique appearance, which they thought could be distracting - especially for long texts. Others pointed out that bolding certain parts of a word could give a misleading impression as to what was important in the text.

So, it seems that the jury is still out on whether Bionic Reading will be the game-changer that its developers suggest. However, it's great that such apps are available, so you can try and see if they work for you. And, like with so many things that are helpful to neurodivergent people, they can be helpful to neurotypicals, too. With so many books and so little time, who wouldn’t like a helping hand in getting some of that backlog read quickly?! 

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