Bionic Reading Toggle for Neurodiverse / ADHD / ASD Writers

Hi there, I’m a psychotherapist who works primarily with neurodiverse clients. I’m also a novelist who uses Scrivener (MacOS) religiously. I also have ADHD. The one Scrivener feature that would have the largest positive impact on my writing experience would be a Bionic Reading function built into the software. A forum search doesn’t turn up any matches that I can find for implementing this feature.

If you’re unfamiliar, Bionic Reading is a typeface style that bolds the first letter or syllable of a given word which greatly improves reading speed, focus, and comprehension, particularly for neurodiverse readers (and writers!). There are ways of copy / pasting text out of Scrivener into, say, a phone app that can convert the text and then re-import into Scrivener, but I don’t imagine this would be extraordinarily difficult to implement as a native feature.

In my ideal world, this would be an on / off toggle button for the formatting bar so the feature could be turned on when composing and editing and off when one wants to share a file with others or submit a manuscript for publication.

More info on Bionic Reading can be found here, if helpful:

Thanks for considering! I hope other neurodiverse writers take a moment to comment if they feel this would be a helpful addition as well. It seems like a fantastic, industry-leading feature to consider.

Scott Haartman


I don’t have ADHD (or don’t think I do), but if this is a proven way to help those who do, I think it is a great idea.

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In the mean time, you could construct a Regular Expression that simulates this formatting in Scrivener. It won’t be the exact same algoritm, but may come close the the basic features.

Edit: looking at it, I remembered RegEx cannot change any formatting, other than in code that facilitates that, like in HTML. Scrivener 's native ‘code’ is RTF… Don’t know how that’s going to work…


Never looked into the feature you’re describing. I’d be curious if you have any luck!

I’d be interested, @Haartman, in what percentage of your clients find this useful. The reason I ask is that I am ADHD as well. I also learned to read at so young an age that I don’t remember not reading. I read very fast, so much so that I have trouble paying attention to speech, which goes so slowly by comparison that it doesn’t keep my attention.

I tried out Bionic Reading on the website you linked. I found it… irritating. It slows down my reading speed. Yuck.

So to go by my personal reaction, I would not recommend this addition. The question is, how much of an outlier am I?

Hi @Silverdragon, thanks for the reply. Bionic Reading is pretty new. I think it really only started gaining public awareness around May of this year, so I can only personally offer annecdotal info from a small sample size. That said, I don’t think you’re alone. I suspect there’s a decoding element and a sensory element to using it. Even neurotypical people report it helping them with focus / reading speed, but I got interested after seeing ADHD influencers on YouTube / TicToc post about it and it seemed to get a lot of positive response as well as some negative or neutral. My impression was that those who didn’t like it found it visually distracting instead of the bold lettering offering visual anchor points for the eye to hop from one to the next. So I don’t think you’re alone. That’s also one of the reasons I’d prefer it to be a toggle switch of some kind were Scrivener to incorporate it.

There’s already an API that can be licensed, but I’m just experimenting with the iPhone app that can also export to Kindle format.

Personally, I’ve “rested” my first draft for a while and am getting ready to read the entire manuscript start to finish before I begin first-pass structural edits. My ADHD struggle is getting lost or distracted while reading, forcing me to re-read sections multiple times. Bionic Reading helps me enough that it’ll be worth my time to explore, print, read, and edit on paper. It would save me personally a lot of effort if it were available on-screen :slight_smile:

Thanks again!!


I’m glad to hear you find it so helpful! My ADHD struggle is quite different. I am likely to become hyperfocused reading; I might have trouble breaking out of that state to take notes or make edits, but I won’t lose my place. I experience your sort of struggle while watching television shows, movies, or listening to lectures, either live or recorded. Listening to a 1.5 x speed playback is my friend there. Closed captions also help.

Needless to say, I buy no audiobooks. :wink:

Hmmm. A very quick review (really very very quick) of the BR website makes no claims of helping ADHD sufferers stay focused while reading, instead focussing on the benefits to people with dyslexia.

I can see how it would help dyslexics… but it seems a really awkward way of implementing something which can easily be solved by using a specially designed dyslexic font (these have letter forms which increase the weight towards the bottom half of the glyph in order to help anchor them better on the page for dyslexics - more than one of whom have described to me that reading some fonts, especially lighter ones, can have an effect similar to having the letter move around on you).

As for those of us lucky enough to have been born with ADHD, it’s not reading the document in front of us that’s the problem… it’s all the other documents, sights, sounds, ideas, and procrastinations that compete for our attention.

Which reminds me, I supposed to be making coffee as a distraction from reviewing that report that I was looking at instead of writing that email. How did I end up on this website again?


I personally have a strong reaction to the term “neurotypical”. In my observed experience, there is no such thing. Diversity (including neurodiversity) is not something an individual has. Populations are diverse, not individuals.

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