Joseph Collins
Henry County
Feature Story

“I’m so fortunate to have had the help of Ms. Jan, because I really don’t think I would have made it through college without her. I was literally one semester away from failure. In a way, she threw me a life raft,” says Joseph Collins, a former patient of Dr. Jan Rowe at Children’s of Alabama.

Joseph first got the help of Dr. Jan Rowe, a Comprehensive Behavior Intervention for Tics (CBIT) specialist, in elementary school to help deal with his diagnosis of Tourette syndrome. After seeing a specialist in his hometown of Dothan, he was referred to Birmingham to find alternative behavioral techniques to cope with the movement tics. That’s when he first met Dr. Rowe. “She was such an easy person to talk to, and she made me feel very comfortable,” Joseph describes. “The techniques she taught me helped tremendously as I went through adolescence and made a big impact on improving my overall well-being.”

Joseph employed the techniques he learned from Dr. Rowe in those sessions all throughout elementary, middle, and high school. In most every aspect of life, he did so with much success, though there was one notable exception: exams. “I have always tried to hold myself to the same standard as people without Tourette syndrome, as there is no benefit to being a victim, even if there are legitimate circumstances being dealt with,” he says. “I applied that thinking to all areas of my life and have been able to do well in everything except timed exams.”

The issue of timed exams hit Joseph hard as he went through his chemical engineering courses at Auburn University. The curriculum for chemical engineering required that all courses must be taken and passed with a C or greater to move on to the next class. That wouldn’t have been a problem, except for the timed exam requirement part of it. “The single limiting factor on my success was the timed testing,” Joseph says. “During the timed test, you don’t have time to think about anything other than the material. There isn’t any time to deal with nervous tics or the stress of worrying if someone sees your movements. I realized I needed to ask for help in obtaining testing accommodations.”

That’s when Joseph once again turned to Dr. Rowe for help. She helped Joseph with the required paperwork to receive the extra time needed during tests, as well as a quieter testing environment. “I didn’t even know if she would remember me—she works with so many kids,” he says. “But she did, and within a couple of weeks, it was all done. I can’t overstate how vital those testing accommodations were and how much my academic performance improved overall.”

After Dr. Rowe’s help, Joseph passed his class and even scored the highest grade in his class for two of the four exams. He went on to finish the chemical engineering curriculum and graduate with an overall GPA of 3.4 without having to retake any other classes. Today, in addition to being married to his high school sweetheart, he has a job in the career field he always wanted. “I was on my way out of the program and potentially Auburn as a whole,” Joseph says. “I wrestled with the reality that all of my plans and dreams were slipping away from me without any way to resolve my academic issues. Ms. Jan’s help was not only the answer to my prayer but a light that reignited my drive to succeed.”