Child sitting on Santa's lap


Is this kid really making the sign for ‘help’ in this viral Santa photo?

Is this kid signing for help, or just nervous?


David Britton

Internet Culture

Posted on Dec 14, 2017   Updated on May 22, 2021, 8:05 am CDT

In case you missed it, a photo of a kid supposedly making the American Sign Language (ASL) symbol for “Help” while he sits in Santa’s lap has been making the rounds online, which makes sense. It’s the perfect mixture of cute and hilarious.

Kerry Spencer, a professor at Stevenson University, told Today that she taught both her children to use ASL when they were young in order to help them communicate. When her son Samuel was placed on Santa’s lap twelve years ago, he made the sign for “Help,” but Spencer didn’t notice until she saw the photo. Posting the photo online has since become an annual holiday tradition, but this is the first year Spencer chose to post it to Twitter.

People were duly impressed.

But other people felt that need to point out that young Samuel was not, in fact, making the sign for “Help,” which is done by placing a fist thumbs up in an open palm and raising both hands.

Spencer responded by saying that children often “mispronounce” signs as they often do with spoken words, but she had seen her son make the sign before and she knew exactly what he was trying to say.

“It is the sign he always made when he needed help,” she told Today.

She also tweeted the correct sign for “Help” to avoid confusion.

So what’s really going on here? Is a mom just trying to grab a bit of viral fame using an old photo, or is a kid, who certainly looks distressed, actually trying to signal for help?

We only know two things for sure.

  1. That kid is adorable
  2. Mall Santas are scary

H/T Today 

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*First Published: Dec 14, 2017, 7:33 am CST