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Body Map Self Map, Keynote Address, Seventh Biennial Conference of Andover Educators, June 2015

Barbara Conable,

Download PDF files:

Keynote Address Part 1

Keynote Address Part 2 


Consider the following conversation between a grandmother and her three year old grand daughter. Grandma pats the child’s tummy and asks, “Who’s this?” Her grand daughter responds with great delight, “Susie!”

“Oh, Susie!! Is Susie six years old?”

“No! Three years old. Three years old!”

“Oh, three years old! Is Susie a boy?”

“No, Grandma. A girl! Susie is a girl!!”

“A girl!! A three year old girl!! Is a three year old a baby girl?”

“No, silly grandma, not a baby girl. I’m a little big girl.”

“I should have known you’re not a baby girl. Look at you, how big you are. Are you a big girl?”

“No. Molly is a big girl. Susie is a little big girl.”

“Is Susie a school girl?”

“No. Susie doesn’t like school.”

“Well, does Susie like cereal?”

“No, Susie doesn’t like cereal, either.”


“Yes, oatmeal. I like oatmeal.”

“Does Susie live in Ohio?”

“No, in Portland, in Portland. Grandma Alice lives in Ohio.”

“Oh, in Portland, with her mother Wendy and her father Jamie?”

“No, with Jenna!! With Mama Jenna and Dada George!” 

A year earlier the two couldn’t have played this game. Grandma would have patted Susie’s tummy and asked “Who’s this?” and she would have answered, “Baby!” and that would have been the end of it. A year hence these items will hold no interest for her, but at three this is the stuff of self mapping and Susie is as supremely engaged with it, as she was earlier engaged with learning to roll over and then to crawl and then to walk. 

Susie’s body map is sufficiently established after only three years that she walks, runs, jumps, and speaks, and, in fact, these movements form the foundation for her emerging self map: I walk, I run, I jump, I speak. Her body map will be elaborated and refined as long as she lives, but it is essentially in place so that her neural frontier is no longer machinery for movement, as it was since birth until now, but machinery for life, her self map. So far, Susie is doing well. Her body map is accurate and adequate, and her self map is blessedly consistent with her body and nicely integrated into her body map. Who’s this? The little big girl with this tummy named Susie who enjoys oatmeal in Portland in her family. This is the firm foundation on which everything else in her self map will be built.

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