For thirty years, Happy Days icon Henry Winkler lived with an undiagnosed learning disorder. And throughout his entire childhood, he struggled to make his way through school. But despite that, he managed to get into two of the most prestigious colleges in the country. And he credits it all to his incredible “will.”
At 76 years old, Winkler is aware that he struggles with dyslexia, a common and easily treatable condition. But during his formative years, he believed that he simply couldn’t read. And he went to great lengths to hide that from the world.
But somehow the classic TV star managed to graduate high school and then gain admittance into two of the most challenging and scrutinizing universities in the United States—Emerson College and Yale Drama. And he earned degrees from both.
During an interview with NPR, the Barry star admitted that working on his bachelor’s and master’s degrees was a sometimes humiliating endeavor. And his now widely known brand of humor is ultimately what got him through.
“I was embarrassed for 10 years because I could not read what was on the page,” Henry Winkler recalled in 2019. “So I used humor to cover all those mistakes for all those years. I didn’t know that I had something wrong. So I just tripped over words, and everybody just kind of tolerated it.”
As he continued, he explained that he had to “negotiate” with his “learning challenge.” And luckily for him, he had a quick memory. So while he “never read anything the way it was written,” he was able to spend hours studying scripts. And with time, he could piece some of his lines together, remember them, and then make up the rest.
“What I didn’t know, I made up and threw caution to the wind, and did it with conviction,” he continued. “Sometimes I made them laugh, and sometimes I got hired.”
Doctors Diagnosed Henry Winkler With Dyslexia When He was 30
While talking on The Howard Stern Show, Henry Winkler further detailed his struggles and admitted that while working on scripts, he had to read them over and over “one word at a time.”
But he never let up because he was determined to make it as an actor.
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” he said.
But when he finally learned that he had dyslexia at 30, his entire world changed. During his chat with NPR, he remembered having a feeling of relief when he realized he “wasn’t stupid” or “lazy.”
“I had something with a name,” he shared.
Because of that, Henry Winkler has spent the past few decades being outspoken about learning disorders. And he has a message for everyone who may be struggling with their own.
“There is not one road to get where you want to go,” he noted. “There is your road.”