Mom Thanks the 'Angel on Campus' Who Calmed Her Child During an Autism Meltdown

Hollie Bellew-Shaw's daughter Kenlee lays on the cafeteria floor with Ms. Esther
Hollie Bellew-Shaw

For children with autism, sudden bursts of emotion are par for the course -- no matter where you are. Psychologists often call the onset of these tantrums as the "rumbling stage," and they can be difficult, embarrassing, and emotionally exhausting for parents or caregivers to navigate. They also can be especially draining on the kids themselves. That's precisely why one mom in Alvin, Texas, is giving her school custodian a very public round of applause, after she very calmly and compassionately soothed her daughter's meltdown in the middle of the school cafeteria.

  • Taking to Facebook on September 10, Holliw Bellew-Shaw had some words of praise for "Ms. Esther," the janitor she called an "angel on campus."

    "Our school custodian is literally the best, sweetest individual in the world," the girl's mother wrote. "[My daughter] 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."

    A single photo accompanied the post, showing Ms. Esther laying down on the cafeteria floor alongside Belew-Shaw's daughter Kenlee, who was wrapped in a blanket.

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

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  • It didn't take long for the post to make its way around social media, as hundreds shared it and thanked Ms. Esther for going the extra mile.

    "Thank you for all you do!" wrote one person.

    "[This] made me emotional first thing this morning," added another. "Love this special compassionate woman that stepped in for this little girl!"

    Others noted that they wish they had a Ms. Esther in school when they were growing up and struggling to navigate their own big emotions.

    "I wish you were there when I was a kid in school," wrote one man. "You are Good with a capital G. Stay that way please? Don't let this world ever make your heart grow cold. This world needs you."

  • Administrators at Alvin Independent School District were pretty touched by the whole thing too, and shared the post on their Facebook page this week.

    "Sometimes you just need to take a break!" the caption read. "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."

    But the sweet moment wasn't just an isolated incident, Bellew-Shaw said. 

    The mom confirmed to CBS News this week that Kenlee "adores" Ms. Esther, and that "she always greets my daughter with kind words and a hug which is so special to her."

  • The post hasn't just captured hearts everywhere for its message of kindness; it's also served as a reminder about the importance of autism awareness.

    The post was also shared Monday by the official Facebook page for Autism Speaks, where it quickly went viral with over 5,000 shares and hundreds of comments.

    Many called out how images like this help normalize and demystify a common experience for kids with autism. Others, who have children on the spectrum themselves, chimed in with how much the photo meant to them personally.

    "Sweet act of kindness," wrote one mother. "My son does the same thing when he goes into sensory overload some mornings."

    There were also those who said it reminded them of their own experiences as a child who was "different."

    "As a special needs adult I love this because I always had a fond bond with staff even outside of the classroom," said one man.

    But perhaps one person said it best when she took a moment to challenge others to "take this same compassion and be kind to people who may be on the spectrum or just 'different' in the workplace."

    That's a fair reminder, considering we often talk about offering support to children with autism but rarely have conversations about adults living with it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 59 children were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in 2018. But one day, those kids will grow to be adults -- taking on jobs, getting married, and owning homes of their own.

    Let's not forget that they too need their own Ms. Esthers in their corner, who leads with compassion and understanding instead of judgment.