Sports have become a major part of kids’ collective youth culture. While your kick-loving kindergartner may adore soccer or your pint-sized pitcher could play baseball all day every day, not all kids enjoy (or feel comfortable playing) what many parents consider “traditional” sports. Enter sport stacking. If you haven’t heard of this sport, the story of now-21-year-old Jesse Horn illustrates how cup stacking can help kids with autism.

Horn, who is autistic, didn’t feel like he “fit” into traditional athletics growing up. At age 9, Horn got his first stack of Speed Stacks. If you’re not familiar with the sport, stacking involves precisely (and quickly) stacking and unstacking a set of cups in a very specific way. Speed Stacks are the official cups of the sport.

Photo: Courtesy of Jesse Horn

Not long after getting his first set of stacking cups, Horn realized he had a passion for the sport. He practiced for hours daily, honing his skills. Even though Horn did get better and better at stacking, that wasn’t the only benefit of this sport. Like many autistic children, Horn found social interactions challenging. While he had no real friends at school, he was developing online friendships within the stacking community.

The friendships that Horn was building weren’t just in the not-always-so-real world of the internet. A year after starting the sport, Horn competed in his very first tournament. But that wasn’t his only first. An invitation, by a fellow stacker, to a pizza party the night before the tournament was a major social first for the boy who had trouble making friends.

Twelve years of sport stacking later and Horn is still enjoying the game. The 21-year-old recently graduated fro college and is enjoying a career as a motivational speaker—thanks (in a big part) to stacking!

—Erica Loop

Featured Photo: Andrew Bardwell via Flickr


Diagnosing Autism in 2 Minutes or Less? A New Study Takes on the Challenge 

Here’s How Robots—Yes, Robots—Can Help Children with Autism

This Mom Helped Her Son with Autism Turn a Dream Into a Business