Karon Foxwell is a Tropic ambassador from West Sussex and a member of our Connect Curie online group. The WIBN partnership with the Prince’s Trust #changeagirlslife campaign for International Women’s Day inspired Karon to tell her story of the girl who changed her life, her daughter Lili.
A Life-Changing Arrival
Lili was a bundle of joy welcomed by her mum, dad and big sister Bella 25 years ago. Always a happy and adventurous child, as Lili got older she found it increasingly difficult to deal with some situations, especially when it came to school. As Lili struggled her behaviour became very challenging and it would often stretch the family to their limit. From struggling to fit in with her peers, to a lack of understanding in her main-stream school, Karon and her husband spent many sleepless nights worrying about Lili and how they could continue to manage as a family.
A Lack Of Understanding
As was often the case 20 years ago there was little understanding of Lili’s additional needs, and the mental health needs of children in general. This meant that Karon struggled to get the help that Llli so desperately needed from the education system or the NHS. The whole family had to adapt and learn to live with Lili’s struggles in order to support her. It was a baptism of fire with little support, however, it changed Karon and she evolved into the open and accepting person that she is today. It also taught Lili’s sister Bella to be accepting and open-minded from a young age as she supported her sister.
“Living with autism changed me and my entire family, it changed my approach to life, we evolved and learnt and coped together.”
By the time Lili was 13 and after many trips to the doctors, she was finally diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. Whilst this put a ‘label’ on Lili’s struggles it did little to change the families day to day life. Karon remembers struggling to access information and help as autism was something that nobody talked about. Lili was really struggling and the whole family felt like it was at breaking point.
“You are only as happy as your least happy child”
An Act Of Kindness
Everything changed with an act of kindness by Karon’s neighbour Humphrey. During a particularly bad day, Karon was sat on the step outside her house crying when Humphrey passed her a note written in purple ink on blue paper. The note contained details of a school called Stanbridge Earls which specialised in helping children with Autism.
Once Lili started attending the school everything changed. She became independent, progressed academically and was being taught “the way she needed to be taught”. After Stanbridge Lili attended Bangor University which has fantastic support resources for students with autism.
A Happy Life
After graduating Lili travelled the world before entering the world of finance. She had a bumpy ride working for a stockbroker who struggled to understand her autism and she left the role.
However, Lili is now working as a trader at a hedge fund in Guernsey and is “living her best life”. She’s just bought a soft-top car and is learning to surf.
Lili is the only woman on the desk in a completely male-dominated company and is thriving in her role. She has gone from the girl who struggled to fit in, to a woman who is commanding her own space and challenging herself and her colleagues every day.
Lili is also involved in talking with companies and helping them to understand what it is like to employ people with autism. And she hopes this will improve the acceptance of people with autism in the workplace.
Karon says that the happiness that Lili has now achieved in her life has changed hers all over again.
“Because she’s happy, it’s made me feel so happy. I feel complete”
If Karon could go back in time she says she says that she would tell her younger self that “It will all be OK” and that these hard times will come good in the end.