Neurodivergent people can bring extraordinary talents and skills to the workplace, but they can often be misunderstood by their peers. Let’s assume that you already work with someone who is neurodivergent. Your neurodivergent colleague may interpret or process information differently from what is considered typical. This may lead to misconceptions about your colleague's abilities. It's important to understand what neurodiversity is, and the talents that neurodivergent employees can bring to the workplace.
Neurodivergence includes a range of neurodevelopmental conditions, such as autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Tourette’s syndrome, dyslexia, and dyscalculia. By its nature, neurodiversity is hidden, and some people choose not to disclose or discuss their diagnosis or accommodation needs because of stigma. Talking about what it means to be neurodivergent is important. We all need to understand better ways of working together and to realize that there is nothing wrong with being neurodivergent.
Drawing from his own experiences as a neurodivergent public servant, Sancho Angulo actively shares his perspectives with other federal public servants on creating workplaces that respect and celebrate neurodiversity. Sancho currently works as an Advisor for Privacy and Data Governance with the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer at the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS). He chose to become a speaker with the Federal Speakers’ Forum on Lived Experience (the forum) in part to dispel negative stereotypes about neurodivergent people.
At 13 years old, Sancho was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, which today is recognized as a part of autism spectrum disorder. With support and encouragement from his parents and teachers, he harnessed his deep interest in politics and government to pursue a Bachelor of Public Affairs and Policy Management at Carleton University, through which he gained meaningful work experience with the federal public service. He graduated as class valedictorian, and soon after accepted a permanent role within the federal public service. Since beginning his permanent role in the federal government, Sancho earned a Master of Public Policy and Administration, also from Carleton.
“Neurodivergent people can bring phenomenal talents to their work such as creativity, innovative thinking, pattern recognition, and attention to detail,” he says. “However, neurodivergent employees face unique barriers to entering, staying, and advancing in the workplace, which neurotypical people do not experience.” The lack of awareness around neurodivergent employees often creates misconceptions and even missed opportunities in highlighting the talents that they bring to the workplace.
Sancho explained, “When people hold onto harmful stereotypes and stigma about neurodevelopmental conditions, it can lead to neurodivergent people experiencing hostility from others at work. Some managers may see neurodivergent people as ‘slow’ or less capable, resulting in employees being passed over for training and promotional opportunities.”
“While many managers and employees strive to foster inclusive workplaces, neurodiversity is something that is left out of the conversation. Perceptions and beliefs about neurodivergence are often shaped by its portrayals in popular media.”
Sancho wants us to remember that diversity also includes what you can’t always see.
“Building a public service that reflects Canada’s diversity must also include neurodiversity. It’s up to each of us to cultivate workplaces that include neurodivergent employees and empower them to perform at their very best.”
Last February, Sancho expanded his advocacy efforts by starting Infinity – The Network for Neurodivergent Public Servants, which has since grown to more than 400 members across 60 federal institutions. He credits his experience as a speaker with the forum as the motivation for founding this network.
The Federal Speakers’ Forum on Lived Experience is a platform for public servants to share their own lived experiences on a range of topics, including mental health, disability and inclusion, race, antisemitism and 2SLGBTQI+ identities. Revamped in March 2023 by merging 2 former speakers’ forums—The Federal Speakers’ Forum on Diversity and Inclusion with the Federal Speakers’ Bureau on Mental Health—the forum supports the work of the Centre for Diversity and Inclusion at TBS. Federal organizations can invite one of the volunteer forum speakers to share their story with public servants.
Become a speaker or listen to someone’s story through the forum.