Transitioning to Employment: Adults with Special Needs


Young adults with special needs have a hard road ahead when it comes to transitioning to employment but with the right help such ass Steps with Theera they can make it happen. 

 By Max Simpson


The job market is tough for anyone, look at all the graduates with degrees who are unable to find work. Then look at the statistics for young people with special needs in employment. In the States 17.1% and in the UK 44.3% whereas the statistics for Thailand are 64.8% – how can they compete?

As parents of special needs children and professionals working with them, we know how capable they are and the areas they excel in. We need employers and the general public to see it too. So how do we best prepare our young people for this huge transition from education to employment and independence?

Supported and structured environments with realistic goals and positive reinforcement give our children the best opportunity to succeed. We know this and we strive to put in place at school and home. However, this is where everything starts to fall apart when transitioning to employment, all the support and structure is suddenly gone. Outside of Thailand, there are government services and charities who aim to bridge this gap, however as you can see from the statistics, there is still a high percentage of young people who are unemployed.

Life skills should be integrated into mainstream curriculum as well a focus of any special needs curricula for students aged 12 and up.  In order to work, we need to be able to get dressed in the morning, have good hygiene, know how to be punctual, manage money, communicate…the list goes on and can often seem overwhelming but we break it down and we make it realistic. There is a reason why the majority of schools offer work experience, it is to help young people make the link between the classroom and the work place. What we learn in school is (usually) useful and we need to learn how to apply it into our daily lives and future.

For a young person with special needs, they may be particularly good at one thing such as organisation, interacting with people, following instructions or memorization. As educators, we have to tap into that skill and find a way to link it to a fulfilling employment opportunity. It is imperative that a transition plan or targets are in place from as early as possible to best prepare the young person. It can often seem like double-edged sword, the young person needs to be prepared and have been taught the necessary skills, but employers and society also need to be trained so they have awareness.

Steps with Theera is a vocational training center and coffee shop in Bangkok which is providing a service to bridge this gap. Not only do they have a full time accredited life skills program for young adults with special needs, they have a coffee shop on the premises where the young people receive work based learning, and the community have the opportunity to see how capable they are. The founders (Theeta and Max) are also working with local employers to find employment opportunities for the students after they have completed Steps with Theera’s program.

‘We have been really overwhelmed with the response from the community, so many people want to help and are willing to give up their time for this project. We already have a couple of restaurants willing to work with us to create sustainable work opportunities for our students and we are confident these opportunities will grow’

In addition to their full time vocational program, they also offer a work experience program (after school and weekends) and a summer program for young people who would benefit from an alternative pathway, as well as hosting birthday parties and events.


For more information about their programme, please go to

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