Nick is a determined and accomplished painter who refused to let anyone tell him he couldn’t succeed. Though he struggled with loneliness and difficult family relationships for many years, Nick found a healthy outlet in making music and eventually found support through Betonne Jeugd. With the help of the organization, Nick has learned to manage his anger and is proud of who he is today.

‘If you ask me if I have any dreams, I would tell you that I already made my dream. I got my secondary school diploma despite me not fitting the standard. On top of that I managed to become a painter. My teachers always said to me: “you are never going to make it as a painter”. But I did, and now I have been working as a painter for two years straight. When I visited school a while after graduating, I was able to tell them that I have been painting. Every teacher was surprised that I was able to make my dream come true. Their reaction made me very happy.’

The importance of family

‘My family and friends mean everything to me. Those are the only people that I have. I always tell people: “Touch my family, or I touch you”. It’s remarkable, because even though my friends and family mean so much to me, I was lonely most of the time. Even so I wasn’t close with my brothers or parents. I always escaped to my room to play games on my own. It’s been like that for the past twelve years.’

‘I dealt with a lot of pain in my past, especially at home. I experienced a lot of turbulence with my mom and dad. I cried a lot because of it. For example, my dad was a difficult person to be around because I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere, except for school or staying at home. My mom and dear friend helped me get out of that situation and I have more freedom now.’

ADHD and autism

‘The most difficult moment in my life was when I went to secondary school for the first time. I didn’t know anybody, and I was by myself a lot. When people talked to me, I was very irritable, so I pushed people away from me. I even began fighting with my peers. Later it turned out that I was having such a hard time because of my ADHD and autism.’

‘Everything changed at secondary school. I didn’t only have one teacher for several years, but I suddenly got a new teacher for every subject. I couldn’t handle that change because of my autism. Secondary school was very chaotic for me and it caused me to panic and enhanced my anger issues.’

Nick van der Schraelen

A helping hand

‘I was twelve years old when I came to Bettonne Jeugd. I had little money and fought frequently. Betonne Jeugd helped me with school, my hyperactivity, and my anger issues. I even gained a lot of friends. In addition, the people at Betonne Jeugd help me with the connection I have with my parents and brothers. I didn’t have a good connection with my family, especially with my brother. It takes time to heal the relationship, but I don’t have to do it on my own.’

Under control

‘In my free time I spend a lot of time at Betonne Jeugd, usually three times a week. With my friends I play football, table football and that kind of stuff. People describe me as musical and creative with painting. They also know me as a loud person, I would get in trouble for screaming. Right now, I have my energy under control. I learned from Betonne Jeugd how to control my anger through special training and because of that I haven’t been fighting with people for two years now. My anger is still there, but I don’t fight anymore. I am proud of who I have become until now.’

By Mikko Huotari and Beaudine Muis