Above: Howard Wexler’s home studio features some of the 120-plus toys and games he has invented and licensed during the past five decades. (Photo by Bud Glick)In the summer of 1969, Howard Wexler called a time-out. He was in his early 30s, living in a high-rise Manhattan apartment near Lincoln Center. He’d been a social worker, a teacher, and a school psychologist in New York City and on Long Island for nearly a decade. And for the past year, he’d been taking courses in a doctoral program at Fordham’s Graduate School of Education. But he was dissatisfied at work and unsure of his next move.
He had come a long way from his early days as a self-described “street kid” and “shop student” on the Lower East Side, where he struggled with learning difficulties and unsympathetic teachers. “I thought I was just dumb,” he says. But he persevered. He made the Seward Park High School basketball team, which boosted his confidence. And he started to hang out with “a bunch of smart kids who were on their way to college. I made up my mind I wanted to stay with them, compete with them.”
He did, and it was in a psychology course in a City College evening program that he first learned of the mysterious condition that made spelling and reading so difficult for him. He began to understand that his struggles had nothing to do with the quality of his mind.
“There it was in the textbook,” he says, “and I thought, jeez, if that’s the definition of dyslexia, that’s me.”
In his career as a teacher and school psychologist, he sought to give students the kind of support he wished he had received as a kid. “I loved the children,” he wrote recently in a privately published memoir, “but disliked many …