PHOENIX — A Phoenix mother is hoping to make her 2-year-old daughter feel more included by modifying a Christmas tradition and adding a wheelchair to their Elf on the Shelf.
"Yes, this is a silly little tradition but if it can start a conversation on how we really need to improve inclusion and accessibility in our everyday life, I will make Elf of the Shelf for the rest of the year," said Samantha Lackey.
Lackey's daughter, Stella, is diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and needs a wheelchair to move around.
She told ABC15 adding a wheelchair to their elf was a 'no-brainer' because she wanted to have her daughter to have some kind of representation.
Lackey applauded toys like Barbie for having a wide range of characters but thinks more can be done to help kids with disabilities feel more included.
"She is a very typical toddler in most senses. She does use a wheelchair. She got her first wheelchair at a year old. From then, we've really seen her confidence grow," she said.
Stella got her Elf on the Shelf in November from Santa. Since then, Bean the Elf has been popping up around their north Phoenix home, doing things that Stella likes to do.
"She loves to go down the ramp into our backyard, she loves to climb the rock wall at occupational therapy, get into makeup, make a mess, it is my toddler in an elf," said Lackey.
Lackey told ABC15 that she hopes the elf and its wheelchair helps decision makers consider children with disabilities when it comes to toys and entertainment.
She also wants parents to talk to their kids so they can be a little kinder when they see someone with a disability.
"So why aren't we having these conversations with our kids and if I can start it with Elf on the Shelf, why not?"