Embracing autism with love and bliss

Founder of Colours of Bliss (COB) Autism Centre Kubanshnie and her 14-year-old daughter Saiantha who suffers from ASD.

Founder of Colours of Bliss (COB) Autism Centre Kubanshnie and her 14-year-old daughter Saiantha who suffers from ASD.

Published Jun 9, 2024


Durban — Finding an affordable special-needs school can be very challenging. This was the predicament that a Brighton Beach couple, on the Bluff, faced when their daughter Saiantha was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

So Kubashnie – who is this week’s Unsung Hero – and Jeeven Padayachee decided to open Colours of Bliss (COB) Autism Centre which caters for young adults who are severely autistic. By 2021 Kubashnie had already resigned from her teaching job to stay home and take care of their daughter because of the challenges they encountered. With Kubanshnie being an ex-teacher, the couple armed with first-hand experience with an autistic child, Saiantha who is now 14, opened the centre to provide affordable quality care for children with autism in their community.

“Among our teacher’s aid and volunteers, we have the philosophy of ‘embracing autism with love’. We have a lot of retired specialised teachers who come and work with the centre’s children. They come in and do music therapy and art therapy with the children. Yesterday we had a mother come in with her son who is a musician and the children had fun playing the drums. It’s a fun environment, it is not your traditional school,” said Jeeven.

Kubashnie Padayachee (left) founded the Colours of Bliss (COB) Autism Centre in Brighton Beach after resigning from teaching to take care of her daughter (centre) Saiantha who suffers from Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). On the right is her husband Jeeven whom they run they centre with along with a committee. Here they are pictured at the centre’s annual sports gala for special schools.

He said after sending Saiantha to private schools for 10 years they realised that there was a critical need for a centre that could provide affordable quality care to children with ASD for underprivileged families who couldn’t afford the exorbitant fees of private autism schools.

Jeeven said when Saiantha was a year old they paid school fees of R17 000 and the years that followed had similar high fee structures at private autism schools.

“These fees are unaffordable for a working-class family. Public autism schools have a qualifying criterion which some severely autistic children do not meet, such as that they have to be verbal and be toilet trained. Unable to afford private schools some parents choose to keep their children home. Realising this, my wife and I along with friends and families registered an NPO and secured space and started the centre.”

Colours of Bliss Art Competition entries.

Jeeven said the centre had support groups for parents where they are taught more about the condition.

“We tried to build and get together this autism community where we can take care of the children and educate the parents. We have many outreach programmes, we have a sports gala every year for children from special schools to take part in April which is International Autism Month. We have outreach programmes in schools where we have workshops with teachers.

“Some teachers have autistic children in their classes but they don’t even realise it, after we have the workshops they are able to identify the children. We also have outreach programmes with companies on their wellness days. It’s not only the centre and teaching the children but it is a holistic approach to autism in our community.”

Kubashnie and Saiantha at the NPO’s outreach Fun Walk.

Jeeven said they also engaged with people from around the country involved in the autism community and next month they would be hosting a workshop on the practical approach to ASD with specialised guest speakers.

He explained the idea for the centre came about when Covid-19 hit and children were not going to school and Kubashnie was home all day taking care of Saiantha.

“That was when my wife actively brought the idea to life. It is her brainchild, she and I took the idea of an autism centre to a group of concerned individuals and the centre was born. We have encountered goodwill among the community. What brings delight and joy is that some of these children come to the centre not toilet trained but after a week or so we wean them off nappies. That is a major breakthrough and parents are grateful for this.”

The Padayachee family (from left) Jeeven, Kubashnie, Saiantha, Renolan and Nilesthra.

Sunday Tribune