WITH paintbrushes in hand and can-do attitudes, co-founders of Steps with Theera, Max Simpson and Theeta ‘Uang’ Hotrakitya, set to work to transform a delapidated three-story building into what is now a positive environment for people with special needs to learn valuable skills and for the community to learn more about learning disorders.
Before opening Steps with Theera, Max was working as a teacher at an international special needs school in Bangkok, where she became aware of a number of young adult students not progressing further into employment. Max began taking students to Uang’s first coffee shop ‘Theera’ to provide them with training and work experience.
Both Max and Uang are incredibly passionate about the cause, with Uang’s young son and Max’s younger brother both diagnosed with autism. In 2016 the two ladies joined forces and opened the doors to their own training centre in September of that year.
The training centre follows an accredited UK training programme that has been adapted to Thai culture. The curriculum teaches life skills and aims to give the trainees independence and ultimately make them employable. Each trainee follows their own individual programme pertaining to their interests, such as art or even computer programming. Throughout their time at the learning centre each trainee creates their own portfolio filled with diary entries, completed tasks, and photos demonstrating their skills and proving that they are capable of working.
Due to cultural taboos in Thailand many children born with special needs are often hidden from society. The lack of awareness of autism and learning disorders also leads to many cases going undiagnosed or ignored as many parents are simply not aware. As a result, the occurrence rate of autism in Thailand is reported to be roughly 1 in 1000 – which is simply impossible.
In stark contrast, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US estimates that 1 in 68 children are likely to be diagnosed with autism globally.
At the end of 2016, Steps with Theera in conjunction with BBDO Bangkok launched the campaign ‘1 in 68’ to raise awareness about the disease itself, but more importantly, to raise awareness of the capabilities of people diagnosed with autism. Roots Coffee, Café de Tu, Nanyang, If I were a carpenter, and Greyhound Thailand have also joined the cause and agreed to employ graduates and produce and sell products specifically to raise money for the campaign.
Steps with Theera offers both full-time and part-time courses; enrollment is ongoing and students may join at any time. A speech therapist, counsellor, two psychologists, and two job coaches are on hand to assist trainees, while the art and computer programming teachers work on a volunteer basis. In total there are 15 full-time employees, three of which have special needs, as well as 10 full time trainees.
The café is open daily from 9am – 6pm.
Share this post to receive 10% discount at the cafe.
29/8 Ekamai Soi 10
02 381 6590