I spoke with Alex's teacher on Monday and she let me know that they had concerns about Alex going back to school full time. We've been gradually lengthening the day as therapy finished and on Tuesday, he was due to start full time.
Instead, his teacher would like us to continue picking him up an hour before school ends.
He's definitely had a lot of trouble with this finish time. When we initially lengthened the day by an hour, he adapted very quickly after two days. With the second hour added, he was still having trouble after two weeks, although it was improving. I can understand the school's decision to delay adding the final hour. It will give Alex more time to adapt and adjust.
Of course, it means some trouble on my end. The main issue is that now the therapists have moved on to other clients, so I don't have anyone to help me with Alex. If he comes home and is allowed to basically have free play, I risk inadvertently reinforcing the shorter school day. He's smart and quite capable of self-triggering some tantrums if he thinks it gets him something desirable.
I've decided to run errands with him, which he doesn't hate but certainly isn't as fun as playing. The school wants to do this for a week or two, which I'm willing to play along with. After that, though, I'm going to need a new plan. If Alex is coming home early and I have to manage him, that means no writing time for me, which is okay temporarily but not long term. Not to mention the fact that I'm definitely going to run out of errands to take him on.
I've suggested to the school that we add in a reinforcer for a well-behaved afternoon. They've agreed and Alex will be earning his bus ride tokens for the afternoon. Once he's earned his "magic" number, I will take him on a bus ride after school. (We use a random number which we don't share with Alex. It prevents anxiety tantrums as he gets close to his total.)
I've also asked the therapists for suggestions for activities to do with Alex which wouldn't be reinforcing.
The school is pretty good with him, so when they ask for some extra time, I know it's not a request they make lightly. Something in my gut tells me that Alex is going to continue to have a rough time and we're eventually just going to have to tough out the full day though. We'll see if my instincts are right.