hypersensitivity and Aspergers syndrome and/or ASD legal cases

Submitted by Barry Davis on Wed, 27/5/2009 - 13:43

I have Aspergers syndrome and have developed an awareness for monotonous, continuous dog barking noises. Consequently since my local council has a poor record or management policy for managing nuisance dog barking I have developed a hypersensitive hearing disorder from nuisance barking and the failure to have anything done about dog barking over 9 years. Another disorder id sleep problems and over alertness.

I have had the State Ombudsman investigate, the SA Environmental Defenders Office, MPs, Councillors, etc etc with no satisfaction. Currently the SA Equal Opportunity Commission is waiting for the Govt to bring in a new amended EO Act in particular, in regard to mental health; and the Cth is also amending its own. Currently I am seeking Freedom of information actions against my council compliance dept and am in the process of having my electorate State MP study these in order to seek justice. Unfortunately as I see it there is no human rights legislation or health or mental health legislation in which to make progress. The gameplay seems to wait and see what might transpire.


I have many sensory problems also, and have serious issues with the lack of sensitivity shown by those people who are paid to deal with such problems, for example government bodies, councils etc. I have been treated appallingly at times, and was even toyed with extensively by one office.

The upshot is that our society does not adequately educate its members on matters of diversity and sensitivity. If they don't experience a problem personally, and it is an unusual one, then they may apply stereotypical perceptions and behaviours. Dominant social group norms and behaviours can reflect a shortfall of empathy, active listening and ethics. Hmmm...those first two sound ironically familiar, don't they?!

I have no real suggestions regarding a solution to your specific problem, but have 3 points worth considering:- 

1. Anyone with ASD who has any problem at all needs to document absolutely everything in writing. If you can, avoid phone calls at any cost. My verbal skills + "he said, she said" mentalities spell trouble.If people try to contact you by phone, politely inform them that you require email or written contact only. I explain that I have a hearing impairment - which is true for anyone on the spectrum with auditory processing difficulties. This always works, given that many people treat those with obvious disabilities better than they treat those with 'invisible' ones like ASD;

2.Obtain all information - including other perspectives. Sort through the information and fill in any gaps with facts that are current, devise a plan and a set of possible solutions, run it by someone you trust for feedback (and be prepared for that feedback), adjust it where required and continue to adapt it if necessary until resolved; and

3. Have someone you trust that is willing to advocate on your behalf if required, but give them all relevant information.

Then go for it - if we don't speak up then we will never see change, and they will never learn and grow. Good Luck.


Michelle, thank you for your input on this subject. I agree that it makes life for Aspies much easier if they explain that they have cognitive processing problems. If other Aspies are like me, they sometimes don't 'get it' the first time they hear or read something and need to hear or read it again.

I was only diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome last year at age 60, so am still learning how to recognise and manage my Aspie behaviour. I realise it is important for me to do this in order to improve my interactions with others.

I can see how I must be a challenge for other people because I look fairly 'normal' and sound intelligent. As one nasty woman once said to me: You're so intelligent but so stupid. This is how I must appear to those who do not know about or understand my cognitive processing difficulties. At the time she said this to me, I had not been diagnosed.

Your suggestion about seeking other perspectives is a great one. Being autistic I am withdrawn and find it hard to reach out to other people. I try to get perspective by journaling about a subject or writing a list of pros and cons.

Your final suggestion about having an advocate is spot on too, but unfortunately not an option for a Aspie like me who because of my lifelong self-imposed self-isolation is pretty much alone in the world. I desperately need an advocate in my current court situation who knows about Aspergers Syndrome and it would be great if one day they were funded by governments to assist people with this form of disability.

You are absolutely correct - unfortunately any assistance or advocacy for adults is extremely sparse or very expensive. It is frustrating that many ASD adults, due to circumstances determined by being ASD, are unable to afford the assistance they need. That is why this web-site is one crucial avenue in having our voices heard.

Given that many of us do live in socially isolated environments with varying levels of communication difficulties, it is vital that we have a voice and some form of advocacy. We are caught in somewhat of a "Catch 22" situation - by nature we may not seek out contact and can remain socially isolated, and yet we desperately need to make contact and have people listen to us.

Sometimes people who have more exposure to daily life (many nt's) take it for granted that everyone, and especially those who are intelligent, will be aware of facilities and services that are available in the community, or can actively seek out this information. This is often not the case with ASD - I know that I can miss something that is right in front of me, and may occasionally require direction and assistance for even basic things.

Like myself, many asd adults feel more confident to express themselves in written form. Current technology, with web-sites, forums and email, is vital if we are to overcome the invisibility of ASD. I also believe that the majority of people and government bodies are still unaware of the extent to which these conditions exist, the nature of the conditions, and the impact. Until we can overcome problems such as stigma and misdiagnoses due to inadequate diagnostic criteria we will remain a very silent and marginalised minority. So we need to apply ourselves in ways that we can - in written form. 

ASD needs a better public image, and those who are less affected need to step up to the plate and give a helping hand to those who are more affected in whatever small way they can. I am currently studying, acquiring skills which I hope to soon use in order to advocate for ASD on both a small and large scale. I am aware of a number of other ASD people who are gradually emerging in similar positions. If we continue to support the people and organisations that do proactivley advocate, providing them with feedback and information about how we exist and our challenges and successes, then we have found our voice and can only become stronger as a community.



Wed, 1/7/2009 - 11:12

How wonderful to find this subject, the very source of my discontent, on this web site. I feel like crying because at last I have found someone who knows what I am complaining about and thinks it is important. And who understands its implications in terms of human rights. THANK YOU

My matter concerns noise being made in an internal lounge area outside my front door in a retirement village where I live as a public housing tenant. This noise is being created by meetings and recreational activities run by the general manager and the residents committee and is made by microphones, movies, musical recitals, bingo and a religious service.

My complaints about it over the last few years have been treated with contempt and I am now being threated with a forced eviction by the Department of Housing because of it. I have therefore taken the matter to the Consumer Trader & Tenancy Tribunal for it to determine whether this noise is 'reasonable' or not. There has been a preliminary hearing and will be one for directions this Friday. I very much need a disability advocate to be with me at court to 'interpret' and help me process what is being said. I have not been able to find a solicitor willing to assist me to prepare my case and represent me despite speaking to many of them. I'm currently trying to cope with all the hurdles at Legal Aid.  

I am not sure if hypersensitivity is the issue in my case. My front door has no soundproofing and the noise comes straight in. I am a singer and have a good ear so when the singing outside my front door is off key, which it invariably is, it is a form of torture for me.

My matter is more about the politics of retirement villages and the discrimination that can occur in those like this one where the Department of Housing is involved in a joint venture with other parties. This means half the occupants are 'self funded residents' and the other 'publc housing tenants' which can be an uneasy mix unless managed well.

I do not know how many sensitivity cases there are. I know of one such case ...

The only ACT Discrimination Tribunal decision ever made against the ACT Government in favour of a person with a disability arose from a hypersenitivity issue (not related to ASD). You can read the decision at http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/sinodisp/au/cases/act/ACTDT/2002/2.html.

I doubt this case sets a legal precedent ... and things will be different in different states/territories. But it is a starting point.

theresa bolson

Sun, 30/8/2009 - 21:43

I have a 9 year old son with Asperger's and is hypersensistive to noises in particular dogs barking.A maltese terrier lives in the garden next door. He barks at my cats, which i believe the dog would drive anyone batty (the barking). I have cats, which is the best therapy for promoting empathy, touch, and they're eager for any affection, also cats have asperger's syndrome too. The physical interaction for someone who is hypersensitive is fantastic to watch! I love pussy cats! and guess what they DON'T BARK! They are so smart, They dig a hole, do their business, then covers it up, i donot believe any other animal does this! SMART!

I too have Asperger's and several sensory issues including getting agitated when I hear screaming children, people clicking their fingers loudly, tapping their pen or other objects on a desk or similar surface, harsh sounding voices, loud and raucous laughter when I am trying to work, and loud throat clearing. Grocery shopping is often a real trial for me and the other sensitivities caused issues where I worked because managers often failed to take it seriously that I needed a quiet work environment in order to concentrate on increasingly complex tasks. When I started working in this government department, staff working in areas with complex tasks were expected to speak quietly and avoid making unnecessary noise but this has changed markedly in recent years.