Life was difficult for the family; Tilly’s father died in 1881 and her mother worked as the local midwife to support the family.
Six months later a breakthrough came when Thomas James, an itinerant missionary arrived at the Astons. James, who was himself blind, traveled around the country helping others who were blind or who had low vision. He introduced Tilly to braille and expanded her world. Soon after, the choir of the Victorian Asylum and School for the Blind (now part of Vision Australia) came to Carisbrook, and the Principal convinced Tilly's family to enrol her as a boarder at the school in St Kilda Road.
Tilly had been a long time correspondent with Helen Keller, disability activist in the US, but sadly passed away in November 1947, a year before Miss Keller came to Australia.