If I had been more open to it, I would have noticed when she was just under two. Hyperlexia, delayed gross motor skills, excessive hand-flapping, instead of the inability to recognize facial expression, she was able to do that very early on- at least the pictures, but she didn't really apply that to daily interaction, every time we went to the playground, she scared other kids- "Mom, this is my new best friend!' great, but she never learned their names or anything about them, and she needed them to play by her ruled and games surrounding her interests...
When she started preschool, it became very apparent that she was not neurotypical. Transitions were overwhelmingly hard she was terribly rigid, the hand flapping was worse than ever, she did not eat most food- and was very rigid about what she did eat. She was reading well at this point though, and could *seem* appropriate in terms of social nteraction- just a little quirky.
At this point, a preschool child find screening absolutely missed that there was anything going on. She is 2E, and her giftedness masks some of the challenges.
As she started school, she began to develop panic attacks about being in classes, but the school was unwilling to accommodate her as she was never in danger of falling behind and in fact, was quite advanced. She began to pretend that she was unable to identify numbers or letters until they were 'taught' them in class. A child who was reading before she was three, was suddenly bound by the concept that no one had taught this properly, so she must not know it. Kindergarten wasn't too bad, but progressing to first grade was terrible. The school picked food battles and she began vomiting every Sunday night because she was so afraid of having to conform to the rules at school. She took it personally whenever any child in her class got in trouble- internalizing it as though she had been the one in trouble, herself. She preferred to peer with younger children, and did not understand the nuances of playground social structure.
After this year we decided to home school, which is working well- she started in on grade three following grade one, and was much more engaged in learning as opposed to being trapped within her rigid interpretations of the rules and worrying instead of learning. She is eight now, and doing grade 5/6 work most of the time. She still has huge anxiety if she knows she is being tested/evaluated so most of her school progress is tracked without tests or quizzes. We simply work together to discuss material and apply it.
She has no concept that her interests are not shared by everyone and will go on for hours/days/weeks about the subject of interest to her dragons, pokemon, very specific science facts and animal facts... she is oblivious to the fact that not everyone shares the same level of interest. She does pretty well most of the time now, though she has meltdowns more often than many kids her age, and food/texture sensitivity is a pretty big issue. We have shaped her world into a safe space for her and as she grows, we introduce more social skills and boundaries. Pushing this too fast, however, leads her to escape to the confines and comfortable spaces of her own mind.