Adult student follows true calling to become autism counselor

Susan Baker

In 2012, all that stood between Susan Baker and her dreams was a degree.

She had already completed her education bachelor’s degree from what was then called Southwest Texas University in 1988, but the classroom doors it opened were not the places Baker knew she needed to be.

She had spent every waking moment helping her oldest child, Tiffany, now 19, blossom through her autism. From weekly visits to the doctor’s office, to eventually leading parent support groups, Baker made a name for herself among the autism community in Sugar Land.

“My name got out there, so I was getting phone calls all the time, and I loved it,” she said. “I enjoyed talking to people, and I could help them.”

She was invited to serve as an advocate at Texas Children’s Hospital of Sugar Land for parents of children diagnosed with autism. That role, combined with her personal experience, rang out as her calling.

One morning over coffee, as her husband of 25 years prepared breakfast, her eureka moment arrived.

“I looked at him and said I’m going back to school to be a counselor,” Baker said. “He looked at me like I had lost my mind.”

Within the week, she was enrolled in the Master of Education program in community counseling at the University of Houston-Victoria, ready to embark on her higher-education journey.

Baker is a member of The National Society of Leadership and Success, and was published in 2012 in an international autism newsletter, Relationship Development Intervention Connect.

Along with holding memberships in the American Counseling Association and Chi Sigma Iota, she is a parent advocate for autism training for the Fort Bend Independent School District. Baker gives seminars at Houston Baptist University and Texas Children’s Hospital.

At 47, Baker is eager to start her dream career as a counselor for families coping with autism diagnoses.

“To get off the couch at this stage in my life, I was called to do this,” she said.

Since enrolling at UHV, her daughter has become more independent and is finding her own passion. Although Tiffany will never live a fully independent life, she has started an organization focused on cancer support, Helping All Kids Smile, Baker said.

“Me going back to school forced her to figure out what she could do with her limited abilities,” Baker said. “It’s been a win-win every way around.”

Baker plans to graduate in December with high honors.

She calls her journey as an adult student incredible for taking her out of her comfort zone.

“My greatest strength is being able to relate to people. I was born with it,” Baker said. “I had to go to school to learn the techniques, but the success of the counseling relationship is the relationship, not the technique.”

I am a Jaguar is an online feature highlighting the exceptional students who attend the University of Houston-Victoria. To nominate a student, contact Paula Cobler, UHV director of marketing and communications, or call 361-570-4350.

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.