by ALEXANDRA RETTER
Remember the vibrant, multi-colored cups, soft, flat mats and race against the clock to stack those cups in various formations as quickly as possible in P.E.? For Jesse Horn, this sport — speed stacking — has opened doors and led to great growth in his life with autism.
In his new book, “Stacked Against the Odds,” Horn writes about living with autism and his success with speed stacking. Horn has been speed stacking since he was nine and has competed in tournaments since he was 13. He has won international titles with team USA and set many state records in Wisconsin.
He got started with the sport around 13 years ago after seeing a commercial for speed stacks while he was at his aunt and uncle’s house one weekend when he was nine.
“My eyes were glued to the TV,” Horn shared. “I knew I wanted a set of cups really badly. I did what any nine-year-old would do: I begged my aunt to buy me a set of cups. A week later, I got a set of cups. Once I started competing, the rest is history.”
He said he has enjoyed traveling throughout the U.S. and around the world to compete in tournaments. He has been to states from Colorado to Texas to Virginia and to other countries such as the Bahamas and Canada.
“I like getting that adrenaline rush when I practice all the time,” Horn stated. “I like the concept of beating your time as well. Most of all, I like making new memories and spending time with my sport stacking family.”
Horn noted that when he started competing, his hands would shake when he approached the table on which he would stack the cups as he strove to be the fastest competitor. As he grew older, his nerves decreased, he added.
He was inspired to write his book after a woman spoke with him following a speech he gave and said she thought he should share his story by putting it down on paper for others to read. Horn has given a number of motivational speeches in different states to tell his story and spread awareness of autism.
“Since January 2018, I’ve worked hard with my aunt and uncle and publishing company, and I’m proud to say the book is finally done,” Horn shared.
Horn said some of the harder parts of writing his book included putting his life in the form of a story and recalling exactly what his life was like when he was very young. “It was a great, great challenge,” Horn said of writing his book. “I’m just happy I conquered it. I hope it helps others, like parents and everyone working with kids with autism.”
Horn said he hopes his story helps people learn about the value and importance of empathizing with those who have different abilities. “Even though autism is the main part of my book, any different abilities should not be a factor in how a person is judged, but can be a stepping stone to open the hearts and minds of others; that they should accept us for not what they think we are, but for who we really are: honest, kind, strong and motivated,” Horn stated.
Lola Longyhore, Horn’s aunt, said everyone with autism is different, and “If you meet one person on the autism spectrum, that’s what you’ve met — one person.”
“A lot of times in our systems, things are set up one, two three — these are the ways you need to learn English, math,” Longyhore noted. “With kids with [autism], passions — if they key into that, whether it be race cars, cooking — that is where we see it opening up worlds. That’s what happened with Jesse.”
“Stacked Against the Odds” will be released on April 1 to recognize Autism Awareness Month. Information about ordering the book may be found at https://www.jesselhorn.com/. In Buffalo City, the City Council is honoring Horn with a “Jesse Horn Day” on April 2. Previously scheduled live events for Horn’s day have been postponed until further notice.