Stacking with “Special” Stackers

by Kathy Zink, TEAM USA, Olathe, KS
Jan 17, 2017

I have been the stacking coach for the Inclusion Connections team since taking five stackers with special needs to the US Nationals in Kansas City in March, 2014. It was such a positive, fun and encouraging experience that our kids have enjoyed stacking ever since.

When stacking with the special needs community, the first thing to realize is that it is not fundamentally different from stacking with their typical peers. They have the same goals – learn the skills, improve their times and compete. They desire that sense of accomplishment as all of us stackers do and they love working as individuals and as a team.

One of the biggest advantages they have is their ability to love, celebrate and enjoy. They don’t always understand what the numbers on the timer mean so they can just be excited for each other in the attempts. They get to truly enjoy the competitive experience and not always worry about if they placed or not. They care about each other and the feelings of others. The positive attitudes and comradery at tournaments makes the true winning experience. I love that we can celebrate personal bests and not just who won 1 st , 2 nd , or 3 rd place. (This is not to say that they don’t care about winning – they do.)

Each special stacker is an individual with different learning and motivational styles as is a typical stacker. Some can focus well and pick things up quickly and others need constant goal setting, praise and encouragement or small breaks. We have developed 2 different presentation styles to meet the program needs at IC (Inclusion Connections). During summer camp, I teach the 3 and 6 stacks in a large group setting. We learn the 3-3- 3 and 3-6- 3 and work with peers to play games with stacking. This serves as an introduction to stacking and the campers who enjoy it may choose to join the IC Stackers Club that we do each fall and spring. We teach all the stacks at the participant’s learning pace. We keep the summer activity more simple, and advance during the Club time as these are the ones who want to progress. They are not required to compete, but most do.

We have found that it works best to do the club once a week for 60 minutes in 4-8 week sessions maximum. We give them breaks in between sessions. This helps them stay motivated and focused. An hour session can be a bit long for some, but I do relays, games etc. to keep them going for the 60 minutes. We choose a couple of tournaments to work towards which is a good motivator and helps with setting goals. In the spring, we go to my school district’s stacking tournament and the Central Region Tournament. The only Fall tournament we have tried was the Cornucopia in St. Louis. We have had 1 stacker attend the Jr. Olympics Tournament in Des Moines and Houston.

If you would like to learn more about our group or have specific questions, contact me at The Inclusion Connections web site is I think stacking is beneficial for developing focus, eye/hand coordination, pattern recognition, speed and agility. It allows the kids to compete and experience individual and team competition in a positive environment. I am proud of our team and what they have accomplished.


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