Janitor comforting student with autism goes viral for act of kindness

A school custodian in Texas is receiving praise from around the country after a photo of her laying on the floor to comfort a student with autism was posted to Facebook.

Kenlee Bellew-Shaw, a fourth grader at Melba Passmore Elementary School, was having a rough day last week when a custodian affectionately called “Ms. Esther” by the students took notice.

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“Our custodian is the best, sweetest individual in the world,” Hollie Bellew-Shaw, Kenlee’s mother, wrote on Facebook. “[Kenlee] wanted no part of being in the cafeteria this morning with all the noise so she laid down w/her blanket on the stage. When Ms. Esther saw her she came and laid next to her and patted her back.”

Autism refers to a broad range of conditions that can create challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, according to Autism Speaks. People with autism may also have difficulty with sensory issues such as sounds, lights, touch, tastes, smells, pain and other stimuli, which can interfere with daily living.

Bellew-Shaw told Today.com that Esther spoke to Kenlee in a soft voice and gently patted her back to provide a “quiet interaction to take her focus away from the craziness of the cafeteria.”

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“All schools should be so lucky to have their own Angel on campus,” Bellew-Shaw wrote on Facebook. “Feel free to share so she can get all the appreciation & thanks she totally deserves.”

In a follow-up post from Alvin Independent School District, Bellew-Shaw said Kenlee “adores” Esther.

“She always greets my daughter with kind words and a hug which is so special to her,” she said.

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The school district said it’s an example of how a “kind word, a hug, and a little compassion are all it takes to make a huge difference in a child’s life.”