Why we need to name dyslexia: BBC interview with Professor Maggie Snowling

snowling say dyslexia

It’s Valentine’s week, so only suitable to share an interview that is getting lots of love on social media: it’s the BBC radio 4 interview about dyslexia with beloved children’s author Michael Rosen and Professor Maggie Snowling, psychologist and President of St John’s College in Oxford, England.


Here’s a link to the interview. It’s worth a listen!


bbc snipping

What’s great about it

Packed into a 30 minute interview, Professor Snowling explains:

  • what dyslexia is, how to recognize it, and tips for parents and teachers
  • that dyslexia lasts a lifetime, that it’s genetic, on a spectrum, and very common (she believes that least 1 child in every classroom is severely dyslexic with 3 or 4 who have more moderate dyslexia)
  • how and why the existence of dyslexia has been debated throughout history (“it goes in and out of fashion”), and why we need to “name it”
  • why schools need to get better at identifying and supporting it early on (the problem escalates–when children fall behind in decoding, difficulties with vocabulary and meaning will follow)
  • why spell check is NOT cheating
  • that dyslexia runs in her family (her brother and her own child)

I will never get tired of hearing Professor Snowling talk about dyslexia: she clearly understands and communicates, from both professional and personal experience, the life-long impact of dismissing dyslexia as stupidity and denying much-needed educational support.

I relate to her observations as a mom: her son’s distaste for the early reading interventions she introduced as home–my own daughter used to literally run from me when I brought out alphabet cards and early readers.

An interesting aside is their discussion about Made by Dyslexia and the “debate” around whether dyslexia may or may not be a “gift.” Professor Snowling addresses this question by acknowledging two things:

1) children can be both gifted and dyslexic, and we mustn’t ignore this cohort

2) the “giftedness movement” is an important reminder that: “Teachers and parents need to be encouraging their kids to build on their strengths. Being good at something is an incredible protective influence, it’s an incredible support for your resilience against what is actually quite a handicap in our education system.”

In fact, I believe that is exactly what the dyslexic strengths movement is all about.

Quotable quotes

“I don’t bother so much about what the name is, but I do think “it” should be named. And I think that a lot of people who bother about the name, bother about the diagnosis. So it’s a different way of expressing that actually dyslexia doesn’t exist…If we don’t label things, no one is aware of them and they don’t get any intervention. And it’s the responsibility of our ed system to make sure that everyone with dyslexia has the intervention and support they need. Saying it’s a myth doesn’t actually help because if it’s a myth the education system can completely deny it, which I would argue is happening.”

“If you’re a scientist you can’t deny the concept because it does exist and we do know that those children don’t respond to normal classroom intervention and they need something else.”


Dyslexic Library interview with Professor Maggie Snowling about the history of dyslexia project




  1. Trasa Bradley-Jones

    I loved reading about this BBC 4 interview with Professor Maggie Snowling and Michael Rosen which I came across whilst researching dyslexia. Our son Dakota is brilliant, beautiful and dyslexia. My husband and I would be delighted if there was any possibility of meeting with Professor Maggie Snowling. I look forward to hearing from you if possible. Sincerest thanks Trasa, David and Dakota.
    Tel 07944 743314
    Email trassy@f2s.com


    1. lostandfoundbooks

      Hi Trasa, thank you for your kind comment; your son Dakota sounds wonderful! I posted this interview with Prof Snowling to my blog, but I am not affiliated with her. I live in Canada and have never had the pleasure of meeting her. If you’re in the UK, you might have better luck finding out if she speaking at a public event, etc. Good luck!


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