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St. Augustine Child Imitates Deaf Grandparents’ Sign Language on TikTok

By meerna Jul11,2024
St. Augustine Child Imitates Deaf Grandparents’ Sign Language on TikTok

TikTok video goes viral, picked up by Newsweek

Jane, a 5.5-month-old girl from St. Augustine, watched her deaf grandparents use American Sign Language and began imitating their gestures to communicate with them.

One of the many videos of their interactions, posted on TikTok by the girl’s mother, went viral after being discovered by Newsweek magazine.

Mara McCullough, 27, was stunned when she realized her hearing daughter’s “babbles” and movements were her baby version of sign language, which she had been using since before she could talk.

“I’m a nanny and I’ve never seen this,” she said.

But her father, Michael Stultz, who taught American Sign Language and deaf culture at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville for 17 years, told her that an infant learning sign language by watching it being used is not uncommon in the deaf community. She and her brother did the same as children, she said.

“The first sign my brother saw was the bath. It wasn’t perfect, but it was clear,” her father said.

Because Jane and her parents live in the Stultz home, she is “immersed in it,” she said.

“It wasn’t that crazy for them,” McCullough said. “She got used to having that modeled for her every day.”

Learning sign language at a young age

The American Academy of Pediatrics supports the use of “simple sign language” with infants and young children as a means of communication and bonding.

“Children can be taught to use their hands to ‘talk’ long before their mouths catch up,” the academy says. “There is a well-known gap between what infants and toddlers want to say and what they are able to say.”

The newly opened line of communication with Jane, their only granddaughter, leaves Michael and Jessica Stultz delighted.

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“They love being grandparents. They are fascinated by it,” McCullough said.

In one of the videos, Grandpa gestures to Jane as she lies in a rocking chair. He asks if she slept well and what she dreamed about. He holds her little feet and tells her she has 10 toes. She gestures in response.

“She’s very observant,” he tells McCullough in the film. “When it comes to sounds and images, she doesn’t miss a thing.”

Seeing her child bond with her grandparents through exchanges she had with them as a child but doesn’t remember has given McCullough “a different perspective.” She can’t wait for Jane to learn sign language when she’s older and can talk to her grandparents.

A Little TikTok Sensation from St. Augustine

Another new experience was that one of her videos went viral.

The one posted by Newsweek has been viewed about 8.8 million times and liked almost 2 million times. McCullough and her husband, Seth McCullough, were unfamiliar with the magazine, which was founded in 1933 and in 2012 ceased print publication and went all-digital.

“I didn’t know it was such a big deal,” she said. But the older generations in her family, her parents and her husband’s father, “panicked,” she said.

Now she has her own “niche” on TikTok — videos of her child and deaf parents in an animated “conversation,” she said.

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By meerna

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