T-shirts support student rewards at Ridgedale

Tom KingWest Knox

April is Autism Awareness Month worldwide. That brings to mind what is happening this month at Ridgedale School. Ridgedale, led by principal Diana Gossett, is the Rotary Club of Farragut’s Partner in Education school. The school is selling Autism Awareness T-shirts. That got our attention!

Ridgedale is a very special school serving middle school alternative students from throughout the county and educating students K-12 who have developmental disabilities – including Autism. This year, Gossett tells me, they have 70 students with special needs and 30 of those have a diagnosis of autism.


Part of Ridgedale’s approach to supporting these students is the school-wide Positive Behavior Support and Intervention Program (PBIS). Here is how Gossett describes this program: By giving attention to positive behavior and academic achievements, you encourage the student to repeat the behavior that has brought him or her praise, positive attention, and yes, rewards. PBIS is therefore much more than a rewards program or a punishment alternative. It is an entire system that, when implemented the right way school-wide and supported by all staff and families, can deliver positive results and also create a more positive school environment with significantly improved social behavior.

The front of the T-shirt being sold by Ridgedale School. The art element at top is the back.

“Students are gently motivated by positive rewards, especially when they have had a hand in selecting and defining the rewards themselves,” she explained. “Students remain engaged when they experience positive feedback and become more self-motivated.

“PBIS incentive rewards offer tangible signs of progress and success and teach students to root for themselves, and for one another.”

This school has no PTA or PTO since it is not a typical neighborhood school, which is one reason my Rotary club, led by president Chris Camp, decided to adopt and help this school. The rewards they make available for these students cost money, money that is not in its budget. That’s why they are selling the T-shirts. All of the money raised goes toward the rewards for the students with autism.

Here is sampling of the rewards for these students: stuffed animals, stress balls, crayons and coloring books, and Nerf footballs.

Here are the details about buying a shirt. They are selling adult sizes (S-M-L-XL) for $25 each and sizes 2XL-5XL for $27 each.

You can order shirts by calling the school at 865-909-9099 or emailing Gossett at diana.gossett@knoxschools.org.

And, she says the school will arrange to deliver the shirts to individuals so they will need your contact information when you order. For each shirt sold, Ridgedale gets $15.

“This program really works for our kids,” she said.

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