I'll be the odd one out. If what you see with your child is a pattern of behavior that just doesn't feel right, go with your gut. If in situations that she is in repeatedly, such as preschool and dance class, she is unable to participate in spite of wanting to be there and liking the teacher, something may be off. If she often seems sad, withdrawn, or just shut down, something is wrong. If when you see her with her peers, she stands out as different, then you know that she isn't "just being 3."
I'm uncomfortable with the Asperger's dx for children so young because some kids outgrow these little quirks, but some kids don't. Instead, every year life gets a little more complicated and they get a little more behind and more overwhelmed, until the situation blows up. I think you are doing the right thing by seeking out professionals at this point. May be the dx will open doors to a special preschool next year that can better meet her needs. May be it will qualify for her therapies that she wouldn't have had access to.
May be 10 years from now, she'll seem like a completely regular kid, and you'll wonder if she would have done just as well without the intervention.
The alternative, that this dx is right and that she isn't going to outgrow these problems, is quite frightening to look at. But if it's true, I'm sure that you'll look back and be pleased that you did everything you could. If the dx is right, the more intervention she gets now, the better.
I would rather my child have the wrong label that gets them the right services. I no longer care what label my DD has, I just want her to have all the help and support she can so that she can have a good life.
The right dx is better of course, it makes it easier to find books that really help you know how to help her!
To parents who have not watched their child be repeatedly withdrawn or unresponsive in situations that most children enjoy, this is not understandable.
The way you describe your DD is very like my DD at that age, and she has Asperger's, SPD, and a social anxiety disorder. She cannot function in many situations, including regular school. (homeschooling didn't work for her either)
That doesn't mean that those labels are right for your child, but I can see why you are concerned.
<<<I want to help her be happy. I want her to feel confident. I want to resolve her sensory issues. I want to help her break some of her fixations. >>
I understand these goals. I also have a child who is often sad and extremely afraid, who is overwhelmed by the world. I feel like I'm raising a child with PTSD, but nothing has every happened to her. One definition I've read of Autism is "self-isolation." That really fits my DD.
- the fact that a cousin has autism makes it more likely that the OPer's does, because it tends to run in families.
- Sensory overload can result in shutting down and withdrawing very quietly.
- Autism presents slightly differently in girls than boys -- girls are more likely to withdraw while boys are more likely to act out. Therefore, boys are more likely to get services and girls are more likely to dx'ed with depression as they grow up.
- I think a lot of post reflect a deep lack of understanding of what a 2E girl can act like, and what might be helpful for.