Friday, April 30, 2010

The Green Brain

I have been  thinking of looking at  many of my disabilities: learning, vision, hearing, nutrition, etc. through a green lens and stumbled across this report.  I think the map it lays out on future trends is excellent.  l'd also like to add psychological health and contemplative science to the implications of  this report.

Link to IFTF report
Many scientists and public health practitioners recognize that environmental conditions have a dramatic effect on health, but the general public has only recently come to understand that this causal relationship affects their day-to-day lives. IFTF research revelas that we are now learning to link our personal health not only to our immediate environments but also to the larger ecologies in which we live. We are beginning to relate the sustainability of the planet to the sustainability of our health as never before. At IFTF, we call this movement Green Health."

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Getting the Eyes and Ears to Work Together

The working memory modelImage via Wikipedia
Lately, we've been doing more audio visual work in vision therapy.  So, I've been doing drills with matching beeps to flashing lights and vice verse.  As I do these drills, I am trying not to use my body to remember the stimulus.  Typically, when I try to do active listening or looking, I tap my fingers or rock my body to emphasize the key points or main idea of what I need to remember.  Or, for a list, I help cue the number of things I want to remember by pressing my fingers.  Then I repeat silently what I want to remember. 

Now, I am trying to not to use my body (kinesthetic sense) while I am learning.  I am also trying to turn off the verbalization that I do so that way audio goes directly into visual and vice verse.  When I do the visual-audial drills,  I am trying to see the dots in my minds eye and then visualize the sequence without verbally counting.  Then when the computer beeps at me, I try to match the sequence to the dot pattern on the screen.   I am trying to work out a sequence of storing sound when I do the audio-visual drill but I haven't found a method to do so yet.  I am really trying not to verbalize or use my usual compensations but I am not completely there.

I hate to say it but I am just one big MOUTH.... YAP, YAP, YAP.  I never realized how much I rely on my mouth for memory, confirmation, and learning.   I think sometimes this can be a bit annoying for the folks around me as I want to TALK, TALK, TALK when they have a nice non-verbal neural pathway that relates their eyes and their ears so that it's automatic and common sense to remember what they've just heard or seen.

Not having your eyes and ears working in sync affects how you relate to others. 
Remember, I am jumbling up the whole decoding and output process.  Where other folks have happily processed a lot of stuff nonverbally before they speak, I am talking myself (aka using verbal skills) or moving my body through the decoding process, so that the response is not always as appropriate to the situation.  Or, I am so busy decoding and confirming verbally that I have decoded the speaker's transmission that I am not getting to the interpretation portion of listening.  This isn't to say that I am deliberately ignoring the speaker as I am working pretty hard to make sure I understood him in the first place. 

Also, I am not sure that other folks realize that my body language should not be indicating that I am fidgeting (or disrespecting) the speaker.  It's just that I am using my body  to try and remember what I am being told.
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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

More thoughts on Rosie and Auditory Processing Disorder: Controlling the Chaos

500pxpxImage via Wikipedia
Rosie's article  about her son's Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)  has lead me to reflect more on APD.  One thing, I notice is that I want more Control.  Other people with APD have noticed they really want a lot more control over their environments.

“Where I run into a lot of conflicts with friends (is) sometimes, I accidentally control their environment as well. Instead of telling me that I’m doing it, they get mad and don’t talk to me about it.”

“Others may not like that (establishing control) and see it as us wanting our own way too much.”

“Some see exercising this level of control as an implicit criticism of them - as a standard they have to live up to. They are put off because they think I expect them to live up to my strict personal standards. I have trouble explaining to them that it is not necessary.”

“I tend to organise everyone and they rely on it, then every now and again I get annoyed because I am doing everything!”

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Rosie O'Donnell on Why Her Son Just Can't Listen Up

Rosie O'Donnell at a tailgate party before Bar...Image via Wikipedia
"Parents and teachers often tell children to pay attention — to be a “good listener.” But what if your child’s brain doesn’t know how to listen?

That’s the challenge for children with auditory processing disorder, a poorly understood syndrome that interferes with the brain’s ability to recognize and interpret sounds. It’s been estimated that 2 to 5 percent of children have the disorder, said Gail D. Chermak, an expert on speech and hearing sciences at Washington State University, and it’s likely that many cases have gone undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

The symptoms of A.P.D. — trouble paying attention and following directions, low academic performance, behavior problems and poor reading and vocabulary — are often mistaken for attention problems or even autism.

But now the disorder is getting some overdue attention, thanks in part to the talk-show host Rosie O’Donnell and her 10-year-old son, Blake, who has A.P.D.

Little-Known Disorder Can Take a Toll on Learning - Well Blog -

Not everybody who doesn’t pay attention is disrespecting you. Sometimes this failing is due to an illness like Central Auditory Processing Disorder.

When I was a child, I got yelled at for not paying attention or not following instructions, that I honestly did not hear. I think people generally assumed that I was a bit day dreamy or out to lunch.  Sometimes people have said that I was lying about things that I insisted that I had never been informed when it was quite clear in their minds that they had, indeed, told me.  I’ve also had problems keeping to the beat while playing a musical instrument or dancing rhythmically to music.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Knowing Your Left from Your Right Impacts Reading

A right-handed Cartesian coordinate system, il...Image via Wikipedia
I hate to say it but I am one of those people who "Don't Know Their Right From Their Left".  You know, this statement is often used as an insult for someone who is pretty clueless.  When you stumble about like this, you are often looked down on as the rest of the group seems to be able to handle this distinction pretty easily.

I'm not alone.  A number of customer support people have noticed that there is a certain group of individuals who can't be led through rote instruction because they can't click on the right keys.

However, this problem of distinguishing from the left and right can be corrected.  As part of vision therapy, I have been playing BrainWare Safari.  One game I am playing involves a circle, square, triangle and a line.  In this game, I have to fill in the blank.  The circle is ______ the line and ______ square.  I am to fill in the blank with up, down, left and right.   I can do this OK on the computer now.

Autism Blog - NIH to study recovered autistics

Public DomainImage via Wikipedia
 "A clinical trial has been started to study and compare autistics (children to young adults) who have “remitted” autism. These are people who would be called “recovered” by the autism parent community."

Autism Blog - NIH to study recovered autistics 

I think there's a lot of controversy over "curing" autism and what that cure really means.  One criticism especially in how it impacts allocating research money is that focusing on curing  and not providing for the needs of the individual here and now.  In fact, there can be a rejection of the whole idea of cure:  "Recovery from autism is neither possible, nor desirable."

A lot of this is the medical vs socio-ecological view held by many disability activists.   The medical model holds that the person is sick and needs to be cured; the socio-ecological model holds that the "Ability is a dynamic relationship between an individual and their environment" and that a "cure" is not always welcome or desirable.  I think the medical model puts the onus on the autistic patient and the socio-ecological model puts the emphasis on the dialog between the individual and the people around them. 

For me, I am somewhere in-between these two models.  As you can see from this blog, I have been doing a lot to medically fix whatever is wrong with me.  At some point in the next year, I will have finished all that anyone can offer me, and then what?  I will be in a socio-ecological mode of negotiating between the environment and myself... at least, until the next big discovery happens. 

You know, we are functioning in an era that is demanding a lot of social skills.  Moving from making things (industrial aged economy) to information economy has involved changing not only the how of how we do things but also how we interact with other people.  More emphasis is on growing your network both personally and professionally.  So what do we do with a bunch of people that just don't relate well to the average person?   Corporation's Human Resource Departments  are set up around the whole idea of team building;  not fitting in is grounds for termination.  They make no bones about it.

On the other hand, maybe, as a society,  we have lost something in terms of toleration of quirky people and the value that they bring.   There are a lot of very creative people who are very quirky.   Whistle blowers often do not fit the norm.  The Gifted and Talented population also are the outliers.  We are living in an era of dynamic change which I am not sure that team building, and its idea of conformance to a norm, is an ideal mechanism to handle such changes.  The advocates of neurodiversity ask that atypical neurodevelopment be it ADHD, autism, or psychological disorder be regarded as a normal human difference to be recognized and respected just as race are gender are.  

A lot of people in autism feel like they have been dragged through the mill of a lot of treatments that never worked or whose cost outweighed the benefit.  A lot of them feel as children that they had no control over what their treatment was and that a lot of foolish treatments was done to their bodies without their real consent.  As far as they are concerned, they have done their part to fit in and that society needs to accept them for what they are. 

A lot of what is being asked of people in terms of conforming to society's expectations lie at core definitions of self and identity.  When are these quirks just harmless self-expression?

Many of the organizations claiming to represent autistic people have little or no autistic people on their boards or in leadership positions.  Yet, autistic people have not been held to be legally incompetent.  So why are there so many surrogates?  I think it is because the nature of autism makes it hard for people to negotiate the differences amongst themselves to create effective institutions composed of people like themselves and to effectively bargain and negotiate with the neurotypical community. 

So when is it right to respect the individual and his limitations and when does a group of people lose the cohesive ability to function together?  I don't know.  A lot of things that shouldn't be related to our ability to do things are related to our ability to bond together:  wearing the same clothes, using similar slang, having similar habits around time management.   Neurodiversity challenges our ideas about group norms and Group Norms also challenge our ideas about neurodiversity's practicality.

For more on autism controversies, click here.

Please note,  I am very hesitant to weigh in publicly about the debates around autism.  There are a lot of strongly held opinions within the community.   At some point, though, you just can't avoid the controversy. So please take my statements now as a personal truth and not as a general statement for all.  I think the study mentioned above could help us understand what is possible for a "cure" and what is just something we will all have to live with.

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Auditory Check List

Here's a nice little checklist from my audiologist  that can indicate a hearing problem.  Maxine Young specializes in central auditory problems and the hearing problems of the gifted.

Auditory Check List

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Sister Mary Catherine Said, "Posture, Posture, Posture", But Never Said This...

Nun UnknownImage by Todd Ehlers via Flickr
Catholic school kids of a certain age and time (you know... back when Men were Men, Women were Women, and Children Only Spoke When Spoken To) were scolded on a number of things like:
"Don't Chew the Baby Jesus!" (ie the Host during Holy Communion), "Pull up Your Stockings!", and "Pull Down Your Skirt". 

But, also Posture, Posture, Posture!  Sit up Straight and Tall.  Kneel with Your Back Straight and Not with Your Backside Touching The Pew!

Well, in the end, they were right about posture.    But the Good Nuns never taught you these exercises!
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Rambling Thoughts Part 2: Thinking About Vision and Life

Continued from Rambling Thoughts Part I:

When  individuals group together in a collective consciousness, they can form close and trusting relationships and can generate the immense power needed to ignite the whole consciousness of the world in all senses of that world:  geosphere, biosphere,  sphere of human relations,  infosphere, cybersphere and noosphere.   Bohm hints that upon accomplishing a successful noogenesis, human beings will arrive at a higher level of reality--the Cosmic Apex.

The Hubble Ultra Deep Field, is an image of a ...Image via Wikipedia
Bohm looks at consciousness as a continuous interchange between the physical universe described in the Implicate Order (see previous post) and the mind.  Human beings bring into being the forces that are described in the Implicate Order as they influence and are being influenced by that very same order.  Individuals who use this order and their energy and intelligence can transform mankind.

The Cosmic Apex has five characteristics:   Order, Intelligence, Personalization, Creativity, and a sense of Holiness.   Bohm looks at achieving this apex through meditation... but not meditation in a static sense; meditation as a feedback loop involving changes in both the practioner and the cosmos.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Rambling Thoughts: Thinking About Vision And Life

Photograph of David Bohm, taken from this page.Image via Wikipedia
Gentle Reader, This is another one of those works in progress, so please bear with me as I sort out my ramblings. 

How you converge your eyes can reflect, to one degree or another, how one reacts to life situations in a deeper and more internal level of awareness. 

Convergence, moving your eyes inward  to maintain the appropriate projection of a stimulus onto both foveae of the eyes, is a basic part of perception that is necessary to see in 3 Dimensions.  We adjust our vision to focus on different planes in space. 

But, why do we do this?  Awareness of space emerges not only from an outward perceptual level, but also from an inward sense, an all encompassing style that each individual possesses.  We see and want to see what the outside world  is doing; but we also have an interior sense of what we expect the world to be.

This question has been argued about since the beginning of time.  Philosophers such as Plato, Descartes, Kant, etc. have been arguing how do we know what we know.  How do we trust our senses? How do we know what is reality and what is not?

Sometimes I think that I can be a bit introverted because,  until recently, manipulating the world through my senses has just been so darned difficult.   As Stereo Sue noted, when you don't have depth perception, you relate to the world as though you were looking outside the window at the world and not as though you are actively engaging in and related to the world.  I am wondering how this lack of 3D vision has impacted me emotionally.  I don't have the great unifying theory of perception and psychological affect, yet.  So if anyone knows more about this, please drop me a line.

I wonder if my frontal lobes just overdeveloped because the back of brain that does the sensor fusion just hasn't doing its job. Until now, for much of my life, there is a whole lot of the exterior world that I just literally couldn't see.

I recently visited my alma mater, University of Pennsylvania, and marveled at the buildings that for four years, I never saw in the detail.  I looked at Irvine Auditorium (to the left) which was inspired by Mont Saint Michel (to the right)  and just noticed how many triangles go into making that building.  Traingles!   It is remarkable that a building of such tremendous spirituality as Mont Saint Michel whose architecture served the building's purpose of lifting ourselves up and out of our bodies and into the realm of the eternal.  Irvine Auditorium is, of course, a showcase for the arts and intellectual pursuits -- another building whose architecture serves the purpose of lifting ourselves up and out of our bodies into a higher realm.  All through the use of triangles!

But, I say Triangles because I still do not see in 3D.  When I finally achieve 3D vision, perhaps, I shall exult in Cones!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Convergence Insufficiency movie


According to the Mayo Clinic, convergence insufficiency, CI, occurs "when your eyes don't turn inward properly while you're focusing on a nearby object. When you read or look at a close object, your eyes should converge — turn inward together to focus — so that they provide binocular vision and you see a single image. But if you have convergence insufficiency, you won't be able to move your eyes inward to focus normally."

This disorder is not caught in standard eye exams given by opthamologists and needs to have an examination done by developmental optometrists.

Some people are more prone to CI than others. CI affects 3 percent to 5 percent of the population. For example, nearly 10 percent of subject with CI also had diagnoses of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD or ADHD). Many of the symptoms of CI overlap that of ADHD. In fact, it is possible that the "medications used to treat ADHD are aggravating CI. For some of these drugs, difficulties with accommodation and blurring have been reported (Bennett et al., 1999).

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Eye Hand Coordination as Demonstrated by Kindergarten Students 100 Years Ago

Person in a pink sweatshirt knitting a pink scarfImage via Wikipedia
You know, the good old days required a lot more hand eye coordination.  Some of it, I guess, is that ultimately children would join a workforce that produced things manually, thus requiring good hand-eye coordination.

"Why did I include these scans in the Eye Can Too! Read blog? I wanted to make a statement about what kinds of activities were done at the reading readiness, preschool level in the eras before television, plastic playgrounds, and Game Boys. The eye-hand coordination required to do any of these crafts is far more mature than we expect from fifth graders today, let alone from five year olds. Not only did these children have to demonstrate very fine motor control, this kind of close work would have strengthened their eye movements so that they could gain experience converging on near point images long before they were expected to use those eye movements to decode the meaning of text."

Eye Can Too! Read: Eye Hand Coordination as Demonstrated by Kindergarten Students 100 Years Ago

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Peripheral Awareness & Autism Spectrum Disorders

== Summary == 1543,Vesalius' Fabrica, Visual s...Image via Wikipedia
 "If you stare in front of you at a small visual target like a sticker or a spot on the wall you are using your central vision. The longer you maintain that fixation, the more you should become aware that you can also see objects in your peripheral field of vision. The ability to coordinate between your central and peripheral visual systems is very important. Athletes depend on it to sense when an opponent is approaching from behind. Everyone relies on it to remain aware of cars or other potentially dangerous obstacles that should be avoided. Peripheral awareness can actually be improved with practice and certain activities.

For individuals on the Autism Spectrum, however, coordinating and transitioning between the central and peripheral visual fields may be their most significant visual challenge. Many people on the Autism Spectrum repeatedly focus on spinning objects, or on moving lights and shadows. These are enjoyed via the peripheral system. Other people on the spectrum fixate on a pen or pencil that they hold and rotate right in front of their eyes or they cannot be pulled away from small objects or details. These are enjoyed via the central visual system."
Eye Can Too! Read: Peripheral Awareness & Autism Spectrum Disorders:

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Strategies to Develop Visual Memory Skills

NYC - MoMA: Design and the Elastic Mind - Huma...Image by wallyg via Flickr
Tangrams can help
"Here is the sequence we came up with to remember a block design so that, without looking at the model, it is easy to rebuild it from memory:

  •  Start with a simple block design that you want to remember
  • Build it
  • Analyze it by making associations and by dividing the larger design into manageable chunks
  • See if you can close your eyes and see the design in your mind
  • Practice referring to the mental image and drawing or assembling it on paper or in space
  • Do something else for a while
  • After several minutes, hours, or days, see if you can still access, refer to, build, and use the visual image stored in your mind"
Eye Can Too! Read: Strategies to Develop Visual Memory Skills:

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Toes Know: How Eyes Follow the Toes

grace and christianImage via Wikipedia
The Toes  Know!  I tried this simple tip of aligning my feet with the Brock String when I work on my home exercises from vision therapy

How your posture affects your eyes. Poor posture may indicate a need to see a developmental optometrist (not the opthamologist).

A few tips for those working on getting 3D vision: Posture, Posture, Posture!!! The nuns in Catholic school who were making you sit up straight were right!

Here's a reblog from Eye Can Too! Read: Toes Matter:

"In our vision therapy room we pay attention to our patients' toes as well as to their posture in general. Toes matter. Every ballet dancer knows that the eyes follow the toes.When a patient habitually stands with one toe pointed in or out and tries to do the Brock String, for instance, they typically find it easier when their feet are parallel to the string. If they twist their hips or stand with one shoulder raised, a head tilted, or a shoulder tipped back or forward, we notice that they often also have a problem performing the therapy activities that require them to team their eyes efficiently. So, if you have poor posture, walk toes in or out, or tilt your head, I suggest that you make an appointment to see a developmental optometrist to learn if your posture might be due to a binocular vision problem - besides, even if you have perfect posture, you should get a comprehensive eye examination once a year."

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Autism Blog - U.S. Government calls for proposals in autism research � Left Brain/Right Brain

Major brain structures implicated in autism.Image via Wikipedia
"Studies of the genetic and environmental epidemiology of autism to determine risk and protective processes in the etiology of autism…

So, yes, environmental causation is being funded. Also under epidemiology:

studies of their developmental course across the life-span

Autism Blog - U.S. Government calls for proposals in autism research � Left Brain/Right Brain

For the full text of the proposal...
This is good and much needed: an understanding of how autistics develop across the lifespan. This is not, after all, a childhood disorder.

Yes, there is funding for treatments, specifically “Pharmacological/Biological Interventions”. These include the opportunity for the alternative medical community to prove itself to the scientific world:

"studies aimed at developing and testing the efficacy and safety of botanical and dietary supplemental CAM agents that specifically target symptom management" -- CAM = Complementary Alternative Medicine. 

I think it is a good way to find out definitively what effects the environment has on autism and also to do the studies on alternative medicine (maybe that might lead to more alternative medicine getting covered by the insurance companies).

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Vision Therapy is moving along nicely.

Still plugging away on 3D vision exercises.  We are working on Base In and Base Out (pointing your eyes towards your nose and relaxing them).  It seems I perseverate (fancy word for get stuck) on which ever one of these I start with and I continue through the session and can't switch back and forth easily.
It's true whether I work with the computer exercises or the aperture rule. During my neuropsychiatric evaluation, I scored below average on the WISC card sorting test where the tester arranges cards with a certain pattern and you match the pattern.  During the exam, he switches the pattern and you are supposed to switch with him.  I was kinda slow on the uptake and didn't always switch as fast as he was switching or I knew he had switched but I couldn't figure out the new pattern.

We also take a break and work on audio-visual integration (another one of my problems).  There is this program that beeps a series of patterns at you.   The computer either beeps back at you or flashes a series of  dots representing the pattern.  All the beeping is enough to make us all beeping scream!   Even Marianne, the therapist, wanted to step outside and get away from the racket.

She's decided that I am doing well enough with the dots and the beeps on the computer so she's upping the ante.  I am now doing tangrams  at the same time I am trying to recognize a beeping pattern and select the correct response of dots.  I need to do more work on this.  Tangrams, come from China, and are a  puzzle consisting of seven flat shapes, called tans, which are put together to form shapes.  It was really hard.  I only got 50% of my beeps right.  I did get through the tangram.

For those of you geeky enough to want to take a look into the mathematical relationships behind tangrams, see Wolfram.

For those of you who are really bored at work, and want to burn some time with online tangrams, try these!   Warning:  turn your sound off before you hit the link, unless you want to hear some Chinese music.

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Saturday, April 17, 2010 - Three Dimensional Balance Training: No Equipment. No Fuss. No Cost! - Coach Sonnon

Here's some good balance exercises:

Frontal Thrust:
Begin with your planted foot turned outside to a 45 degree angle with your knee slightly bent. Project your other leg forward, locking your knee by pushing with your heel and pulling your toes back towards your shin. Sit back as much as possible without leaning. Flex your raised quad and planted glute in order to relax the hamstring of the raised leg. Exhale and grip the ground with your toes.

Lateral Thrust:
From the Front Thrust turn with your whole leg, leading with your pinky toe so that your raised leg rotates outward resting with your foot turned outward 45 degrees. Sit down without leaning and continue to rotate your leg outwards. Exhale and grip.
Dorsal Thrust:
Leading with your heel, rotate your leg inward and thrust your leg backwards until your foot rests behind you. Slowly dynamically resist your thrust backwards to a locked out position. Exhale and dig.

Frontal Thrust:
Bend your knee and slowly swing your leg under you (bent knee) and begin again with your Front Thrust. Repeat. - Three Dimensional Balance Training: No Equipment. No Fuss. No Cost! - Coach Sonnon

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Grandparents Can Help Recognize Autism in Children - On Parenting (

Torley Speaks at Bounce for AutismImage by Ravenelle via Flickr
"A grandmother is a little bit parent, a little bit teacher, and a little bit best friend. "

Grandparents are often the first to realize that a young grandchild has autism, but they often hesitate to say something to the child's parents, which can delay the best available treatment for autism: early intervention. "
Grandparents Can Help Recognize Autism in Children - On Parenting (

One thing is that grandparents, by definition, have raised children and so, they have a large "knowledge base" to draw on.  They've seen their children, their friends' children, and networked with other mom's on how their children are growing.  They've shared stories about how well or poorly their children are doing in class, sports, and extracurricular and social activities.  So, often times, they know how a particular child is developing compared to the average.  So, I can well believe that they know when something is up even if they can't provide an exact diagnosis.

The article goes on to say that family dynamics can play a part in grandparents not telling their children that their grandchildren need help.  I suppose it comes down to your relationship with your children and how well they can take advice on the grandchildren.  For some families, it could be seen as interfering.  And perhaps, it does take some finesse to maneuver through family relations.  I think the words of the old Psalm, "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight" sum it up.

There are Grandparents that are aware and want to help, and then, again, there are those that don't.    I am thinking of my own family.