Willingness to persist

An alternative view of avoidance behaviors during shared reading


  • Jennifer Whited University of Louisiana at Monroe
  • Jack S. Damico University of Colorado at Boulder




literacy, interaction, motivation, avoidance, strategy


Purpose: This qualitative investigation studied children with language disorders engaged in remediation for literacy impairment. Specifically, we studied behavioral interactions between the speech-language pathology students and children when providing literacy intervention. Based on the study results, this article proposes a positive, strengths-based view of avoidance behaviors that re-frames avoidance behaviors used by children as compared to a traditional, deficit-based view.

Method: Qualitative methods were employed; specifically, interactional analysis, a process derived from conversation analysis, was employed to analyze video transcripts of children engaged in remediation of literacy impairment.

Results and conclusions: This study revealed six types of avoidance behaviors signaling a willingness to persist rather than a desire to quit. These avoidance behaviors include shadowing, delaying, making sound effects, producing related comments, and producing unrelated comments or questions. These behaviors indicate that these children remained engaged in the therapeutic contract, even though they avoided reading. This research indicates a shift in therapeutic perspective. We should view avoidance behaviors not as negative behavior to suppress, but rather as a sign of willingness to persist in the activity. In addition, these findings suggest that avoidance behaviors are signals for increased therapeutic support and shifts in instructional direction. The results suggest that even potentially problematic behaviors, if focused on engaging in the social action at hand, are a sign of motivation to read.

Author Biographies

Jennifer Whited, University of Louisiana at Monroe

Jennifer Whited, PhD, CCC-SLP, is an assistant professor and clinical supervisor in the Speech-Language Pathology Program at the University of Louisiana Monroe. She teaches in the areas of literacy impairment and adult neurological disorders. Dr. Whited is the director of the Community Literacy Project at ULM, which is a research project that serves Monroe area students, schools, and parents in supporting individuals with literacy impairments. Dr. Whited’s research interests include literacy impairment, scholarship of teaching and learning, and holistic graduate school admissions.

Jack S. Damico, University of Colorado at Boulder

Jack S. Damico is a clinical linguist and a speech-language pathologist with a master’s degree in communicative disorders and a PhD in linguistics. With over 12 years of clinical experience as a speech-language pathologist in public schools, medical settings, and in private practice, his research focuses on the authentic implications for individuals with atypical language and communication skills, and on the development of clinical applications to assist in overcoming communicative problems. Working primarily in the areas of aphasia in adults and language and literacy difficulties in children from both monolingual and bilingual backgrounds, he specializes in the utilization of various qualitative research methodologies to investigate language and communication as social action. An ASHA Fellow, he is the editor of the Journal of Interactional Research in Communication Disorders. He has recently joined the University of Colorado Boulder faculty after 28 years as the Doris B. Hawthorne Eminent Scholar Chair at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.


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How to Cite

Whited, J. ., & Damico, J. S. . (2022). Willingness to persist: An alternative view of avoidance behaviors during shared reading. Journal of Interactional Research in Communication Disorders, 12(1), 34–53. https://doi.org/10.1558/jircd.21983