Hi, we are going through a very similar situation with our 3 year old Son. We've known for a long time that he isn't like other children, both in terms of his interactions and in how he responds to certain situations. We had a meeting with his nursery school teachers recently as they too had witnessed some behaviour patterns that were concerning them. These were mainly to do with his interactions with other children as well as his negotiation of the physical space. We've come to the conclusion that he is on the autistic spectrum with AS offering the best description of his behaviour. He has particular issues with social imaginative play as well as sensory issues linked to bright light and sound as well as a tendency to explore the world through touch; he likes to rub objects on his face. In addition to this he flaps his arms and rocks up and down on his toes when he's excited or anxious about something. I could go on, but you get the picture.
We are very early on in this process and it's going to be a while before we can put a label on what exactly it is that makes him different from other children. My wife and I would be very surprised if he isn't ultimately diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum. His symptoms are very mild and it's only because my wife is an early years education specialist with special educational needs experience that we've even been able to identify this ourselves. It's our observation coupled with the observations of his teacher that has led us to where we are. It is certainly not obvious and could easily get overlooked as a lot of it is just down to being 3 years old, but he has so many of the symptoms that it's clear there is something more going on.
In general, he is a bright and articulate little man. He could count to 100 before he was 2, can recognise all numbers to 100 and knows all his letters. He is on the gifted and talented register at school for exceptional numeracy and literacy and is quite popular with his classmates and friends. He does like the company of other children, but he doesn't seem to have the ability to initiate play or how to work out how to join in other children's games. Our concern is that as he grows these symptoms will become more pronounced and as such he will start to find social situations more and more difficult. We are still waiting for an initial formal assessment to take place and we're hopeful that this will happen in the next few weeks. I will let you know how it goes.
In the mean time, the way we deal with his tantrums is to pick our fights carefully. If he needs to get back into bed because his morning routine has been interrupted then we just let him and it means we can then get on with preparing to leave the house. We also model behaviour for him as best we can and have a reward chart system to encourage positive behaviour that we want to work on. In addition to this, we never surprise him with any sudden changes to his routine and always make sure our days and weekend activities are planned and explained to him in advance. We are also aware of the situations that cause anxiety and try to avoid these where possible. What we don't want to do is to pander to him too much as he will manipulate the situation so there are clear boundaries as to what is and isn't acceptable and he accepts this. We, like you, are desperate for our little boy to be a confident and successful communicator and to be able to lead a healthy and happy life. Identifying this early will help in both our cases as it means we can provide as many coping mechanisms and stragegies as we possibly can and it also means that his education will be tailored to take into account his different outlook on the world.
I'm sorry that I can't offer any more practical help, but we are in exactly the same position. I hope you are able to reach a diagnosis soon if it is the case that your little girl has aspergers that you are able to access all the support you need.