‘Happy Days’: One Star Didn’t Realize They Had Dyslexia Until They Were 31

by Chris Haney

During a 2017 interview, Happy Days star Henry Winkler opened up about the fact that he didn’t know he had dyslexia until he was 31 years old.

Winkler obviously did just fine for himself, even without realizing he had a learning disorder. The actor not only graduated from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts where he received a bachelor’s degree in 1967. But he got into the prestigious Yale School of Drama where he received a Master of Fine Arts in 1970. That’s not even including his wildly successful Hollywood career.

Even though Winkler didn’t know about the disorder, he admits he struggled with certain subjects in school. When speaking to AARP in the 2017 interview, Winkler revealed he had trouble with math and spelling. Additionally, he couldn’t tell the difference between left and right directions.

“I was dyslexic and didn’t know it until I was 31. Couldn’t do math, spell, or tell left from right. Left was the elbow that stuck out the window while I drove,” Winkler explained to AARP.

Years after he received his dyslexia diagnosis, friends suggested that he write a children’s book based on the disorder. He did exactly that when Hank Zipzer: the World’s Greatest Underachiever was published in 2003. Since then, 17 other books in the children’s series have released.

“I was told I should write books for children about it. I thought, I can’t — I feel stupid. Then I thought, OK, I’m gonna try. My fourth-grade teacher, Miss Adolf, was very mean. And I portray her that way in Hank Zipzer: the World’s Greatest Underachiever – my series of books about a learning-challenged kid. My music teacher, Mr. Rock, told me, ‘You’re gonna be OK.’ I’ve held on to that buoy for over 50 years,” Winkler added.

‘Happy Days’ Star Henry Winkler Recalls Tense Interaction With Professor

Miss Adolf isn’t the only teacher the Happy Days star had an issue with. Henry Winkler once revealed another tense interaction with a professor at Yale University. Some of the habits “The Fonz” actor picked up from previous drama school teachers didn’t go over so well with one of his first Yale professors.

Winkler remembers one instance in particular during his first week on Yale’s campus. While in one of his drama classes, the actor utilized his previous professor’s teachings. However, his new professor did not appreciate his antics.

“I did that at Yale in class. But on the other hand, sometimes it’s so mean that I’m not sure habits are involved. I’m not so sure. When I was a freshman at Yale, one teacher brought me up after class, and said, ‘You’re trying to undermine my class.’ And I thought to myself, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to be kicked out of school on the first week.’ Not only do I not have a sense of self, I don’t even know what she’s talking about. I don’t even know how to undermine anything,” Henry Winkler told Vulture.

Although he didn’t expand on exactly what he said or did, Winkler admitted he was a “smart aleck” at the time. Whatever it was, the Happy Days actor’s professor didn’t take kindly to it and let him have it.

“I don’t know, maybe because I was a smart aleck. Maybe because I couldn’t control a joke. If I saw something funny, it came flying out of my mouth,” he admits. “But let me tell you that at that moment in time, I was like the bowl of Jello before it solidifies when you put it in the refrigerator. I had no idea what the hell that woman meant. That’s not even hyperbole.”