Nonlinear Functional Analysis and Systemic Treatment of Selective Mutism




Boivin, Nicole, “Nonlinear Functional Analysis and Systemic Treatment of Selective Mutism,” Scholar@Simmons, accessed December 4, 2020,


Nonlinear Functional Analysis and Systemic Treatment of Selective Mutism


Boivin, Nicole




The present research addressed two questions related to behavioral technologies for analyzing and treating Selective Mutism (SM). Experiment 1 examined to what extent contextual variables (e.g., setting, people, social interactions, task demand, negative reinforcement, positive reinforcement) affecting SM can be identified using nonlinear functional analysis. Experiment 2 examined the effects of systemic treatment on the remediation of SM and maintenance of behavioral change when treatment is derived from a nonlinear functional analysis. In Experiment 1, the nonlinear functional analysis identified the variables controlling SM for two participants. For a third participant, the nonlinear functional analysis revealed that mutism occurred slightly more often than verbalizations in one condition but not in others. Experiment 2 demonstrated that systemic treatment effectively increased verbalizations across three settings for one participant and appeared to be effective in at least one setting for the second participant. Procedures extended Goldiamond’s nonlinear functional analysis framework by experimentally manipulating environmental variables associated with SM, and the results showed promise identifying the variables maintaining SM. Research is needed with more participants to better develop generalizable methods. Future studies include refining the identification of conditions under which verbalization is expected (i.e., interaction opportunities) and an analysis of structural variations of antecedent stimuli to identify differential effects on SM.

Key terms: selective mutism, nonlinear functional analysis, systemic treatment


Simmons College (Boston, Mass.)


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Doctoral Dissertations