Improving the quality of life with educational and recreational opportunities for individuals with spinal cord injuries.

At 25 years old, Cleveland native Autumn Nalls had to relearn how to take care of herself following a spinal cord injury (SCI) about 5 years ago.  Before her SCI, she was a  motivational speaker about sexual health and wellness for high school students.  After moving to California for a year, she came back to CLE in 2015 and began her college experience.

During this experience, she got wrapped up in the wrong crowd and sustained an SCI from a gunshot wound in June 2017.  According to Autumn, she let her blind loyalty lead her decision making instead of what was best for her.  She got caught up in the middle of a disagreement between others when she was shot. 

After a few doctors told her there wasn’t a chance of regaining function & sensory, she took her health into her own hands. In 2018, just a year after her SCI, she started walking again with braces.  Autumn said that she “accidently” taught herself how to crawl trying to reach for something and after that her recovery took off. She began to wonder what else she could do.

Autumn met her life partner 3-4 years ago, and now calls him her fiance. She contributed some of her success to the support and unconditional love that he shows her.  Knowing that he “sees past” the wheelchair and loves her for who she is as a person helped in her recovery and sense of security.  Feeling this support motivated her to continue her recovery, especially after she found out she was going to be a mom.

In 2020, Autumn had her daughter – her first child. Being a mom helps motivate her to keep going and to figure out how to be the best person she can be. Her daughter doesn’t care if mom is walking – Autumn is still able to care for her daughter is able to show unconditional love in return.

While walking is no longer a primary goal, Autumn still works toward improving herself on a daily basis.  Her primary goals now are to be a good wife and mother and she moved into her own home in 2022.  Autumn describes the sense of freedom as so fulfilling and meaningful and can’t wait to watch her daughter (& future children) grow and flourish in this home.  She is  currently working out of her home as a cosmotologist, with plans of running her own salon in the future. 

Autumn describes the hardest transition after a spinal cord injury as not the physical part of learning how to take care of yourself again, but it was the mental adjustment that takes place.  The mental adjustment from being completely indpendepent to being a wheelchair user and learnign how to do everything differently.  She  noticed that friends and family had a more difficult time adjusting to her life as a wheelchiar user than what Autumn did. This challenge made her feel like a burden and she started blaming myself for things – which is common after a spinal cord injury.  She started counseling to learn how to accept her new lifestyle and after years of hard work she is in a better place emotionally and physically.  She says that the work is really hard, but the reward is incredibly worth it.  

When asked what she would want others to know about SCI, she replied with “it’s not about other’s uncomfortableness around you it’s about your comfort level with your new self. It’s not about worrying about what others think but knowing who you are and the value you [still] bring. Wheelchair users are not broken, we just do things in a different way. You are the maker of your future so don’t let society’s limits keep you stuck – whatever you want to do you can find a way.”

Autumn has used social media to provide life updates to show/prove that anything can be done as a wheelchair user.  You can find her on Facebook at  @audiinalls or on Instagram @audiivautumn.

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