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Viral Photo Shows Moment School's 'Angel' Custodian Comforts Girl with Autism in Noisy Cafeteria

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When a child has a breakdown, it can be difficult to know what to do or how to react. Is this normal for the child? Are they throwing a hissy fit or are they truly distressed and overwhelmed by their situation?

Esther McCool knew exactly what to do when 4th-grade student Kenlee, who has autism, broke down at school and went to the floor with her blanket.

“She really struggles with being in the cafeteria,” Hollie Bellew-Shaw, the girl’s mom, told “Today.” “There’s just so much commotion and noise.”

That morning had been particularly trying, as Kenlee feels most secure when her days are routine and she knows what to expect.



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“We were rushing and when we rush Kenlee things start to go downhill,” Bellew-Shaw said. “She’s very much into schedule and repetition.”

McCool, a well-known custodian at the school, saw Kenlee and decided to comfort the young girl in the way she needed: quiet reassurance.

“Miss Esther spoke to Kenlee in a sweet, soft voice and gently patted her back,” Bellew-Shaw said. “Kenlee needed that quiet interaction to take her focus away from the craziness of the cafeteria.”

After witnessing the sweet interaction and feeling grateful for such caring staff, Bellew-Shaw posted on Facebook, asking for people to share the story.

“Our school custodian is literally the best, sweetest individual in the world,” she wrote. “The Hippy 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.”

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

Alvin Independent School District soon picked up the story as well, applauding McCool’s actions in its own post.

“Sometimes you just need to take a break!” the district wrote. “When Kenlee, a Passmore Elementary 4th grader, was having a rough day, Mrs. Esther, a custodian at the school, got on the floor with her and just held her.”



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The district quoted Bellew-Shaw saying, “Kenlee adores Mrs. Esther. She always greets my daughter with kind words and a hug which is so special to her.”

“This goes to show you that a kind word, a hug, and a little compassion are all it takes to make a huge difference in a child’s life,” the district wrote.

While hearts were warmed over this kind moment, those who know McCool aren’t surprised by her charity, as this is just another day for her.

“Last year, we had a kiddo who didn’t have family come to any parties, so she would come and be that student’s family,” Principal Natalie Hoskins said. “Esther will wash clothes if a child has an accident or gets muddy. She gives the best hugs. All she wants to do is help.”

According to “Today,” McCool didn’t want the limelight and said she simply saw something was wrong and wanted to make it better.

“I watch after the kids and make sure they are OK,” she said through a translator.

Spanish is her first language, but that doesn’t keep her from communicating her concern to the children she cares about — and, as she said, “the heart doesn’t have a language.”

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