Sport stacker teaches lessons in living with autism

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Sport stacking has a certain ring to Jesse Horn.

21-year-old Jesse Horn from Buffalo City is a professional sport stacker.

"I really like, you know, the sound of it. I really like that click-clack of the cups," he said to WEAU 13 News on Friday.

The sound and his hand coordination have taken the 21-year-old Horn – not to be confused with WEAU’s Jesse Horne – all across the country. All the clicking and clacking has served as a passion for him since he was 9.

"When people see me do this for the first time, they'll make many facial expressions,” he said, gesturing looks of amazement and puzzlement.

Horn has become one of the nation's best sport stackers in his age class. If you saw him, however, there’s something about him you may not know.

"When I was 3 years old, a light switch turned off for me and my family," he said.

That's when it was discovered Horn was autistic.

"My family started to notice that the milestones that were normally meant in a child's life were not happening for me – and I was literally leaving them and living in my own little world," he said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 59 children in America has been identified with autism spectrum disorder and that rate has doubled over the last two decades.

Melissa Long, a speech language pathologist, with HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital works with autism patients to make them feel at ease in releasing that expression.

"They understand everything that you're doing and saying often times. They just aren't sure how to express themselves back to you," she said to WEAU 13 News on Friday. "Occupational therapy looks more at their emotional regulation, their sensory processing - just making them feel calm and if a child is feeling calm, they're more likely to be able to use their words and communicate effectively."

Horn’s sport stacking success has stacked up well and he hopes can make him an ambassador for kids with autism.

"I don't usually call those people with disabilities. I call those people with abilities, because they have the ability to succeed," he said. "It helps me with being able to communicate and talk with other people, to the people that have the same interests as me from other places and the other side of the world. I mean, that's just amazing."

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