Baby Sign Language Used to Signal Help by Scared Infant Sitting on Santa's Lap

Santa offers candy to children in Germany. For some kids, sitting on Santa's lap is a frightening experience. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Santa may come bearing gifts every year, but for some children, sitting on a strange old man's lap is just plain scary. One child was so frightened of sitting on Saint Nick's lap that he pleaded for help using sign language, and the photo has since gone viral.

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We taught our baby sign language. This is the sign for "help." You're welcome.

— 🌈Dr. Frizzle (@Swilua) December 5, 2017

Maryland resident Kerry Spencer recently found a photo from 2005, when she took her son Samuel to visit Santa in Provo, Utah, according to People. He was only one year old at the time and Spencer was surprised that her son signaled for help, especially as taking Sam to see Santa was a parenting experience she was looking forward to.

Her son is now 13, and every year Spencer and her family reminisce about the old photograph.

"We all laugh at the picture now. It is a family legend," Spencer told People. "Posting the picture on Facebook has been one of our favorite family traditions."

This year, she posted it on Twitter at the urging of a friend, causing a social media frenzy. The tweet currently has more than 27,800 likes and more than 7,400 retweets.

The tweet also caused a mini debate on social media about the accuracy of Sam's sign.

Spencer explained that her son's sign wasn't entirely correct, according to baby American Sign Language.

"As someone on Facebook just said: Babies trying to say "fork" sometimes say "fuck." His thumb is the wrong direction. But it's close enough I knew exactly what he was signing," she tweeted.

She further explained in another tweet, "It's common for babies to "mispronounce" words when they are learning to sign. He made the open hand & motion, but often put his thumb the wrong way on top. By the time he was two he did it properly."

It's ASL baby sign; like with spoken language certain words are "mispronounced" by babies learning them.

— 🌈Dr. Frizzle (@Swilua) December 6, 2017

Teaching hearing babies sign language has become increasingly popular as a way to communicate before children are able to speak. Some studies have found that babies who were taught to sign are able to pick up on the form of communication at an earlier age than they would be able to speak.

Other parents opt to teach their infants sign language in hopes of spurring language development. However, a review of studies in 2005 indicated that there was no evidence that baby sign language could help encourage infants with their language skills.

But as this viral tweet shows, teaching babies sign language can offer them a way to communicate they want out of an uncomfortable situation—as well as provide a funny holiday photo op.