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Riverside, Ainsworth spread messages of love, acceptance for World Autism Day

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Aviana & Stella McCain

RIVERSIDE, Iowa (KWWL) -- The towns of Riverside and Ainsworth got creative today for World Autism Awareness day to honor those in the community who are on the autism spectrum.

At least 50 households decorated their front windows or doors to spread awareness and messages of love and acceptance.

Highland Community School's District Nurse, Cindy Peiffer said teachers and staff had a whole month of activities planned but with classes canceled they decided to try something different.

The community decided to turn the town blue with a door and window decorating contest. Messages of love and acceptance could be seen on homes around both towns.

One of them read, "We love someone with Autism... She is stubborn, smart, brave, awesome, fun, carefree, hilarious, and kind."

It's the home of kindergartners Aviana and Stella McCain, their mother Sheena Hartley-McCain said Aviana was diagnosed with Autism at a young age.

"We always knew that there was something a little bit different. She had a hard time hitting milestones when she was a baby," said Hartley-McCain.

From hearts, to puzzle pieces, which represent the complexity of the autism spectrum, to inspirational messages. Each design is uniquely different.

"Love everybody, accept everybody for who they are," said Peiffer.

As Peiffer received pictures from each family participating to add online she said it nearly brought tears to her eyes.

(More photos can be found here)

"Just the fact that the kids did most of the decorating just warms my heart," said Peiffer, "We have several children within the district that are on the autism spectrum, and we absolutely just love, love, love them."

The kids were all eager to show off their designs, many posing in front of their artwork for pictures. Peiffer said she hopes the message of acceptance sticks with the students.

"I let people know that it's nothing to be afraid about, and she's thriving and early intervention is the key," said Hartley-McCain.

One door reading, "With all of our differences we make the perfect puzzle."

The community will vote on their favorite design and the winner will be announced at 8 p.m. tonight.

A custodian with Highland Schools, 'Mr. Jeff', has been virtually reading students' books during the closure. This week he chose an autism themed book. (Watch here)

To find more Iowa Strong stories, click here.

Ashley Neighbor

Reporter, Cedar Rapids

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