iPad Stylus – Purchase or Macgyver it?

iPad Stylus

This summer, I found a need and interest in handwriting and drawing on the iPad. I bought a stylus realizing that my finger was not the best writing utensil but became frustrated at my inability to write small and neat even with a stylus. I started doing some research on styluses to see if I could find one that had a finer point. Here are some of the stylus choices:

Pogo Sketch – A stylus for capacitive touch screens ($14.95) Pogo has been around for quite a while as a touch screech tool. This is their Pogo Sketch:

They also make a Pogo Sketch Pro with a slimmer shaft (OT’s you will shutter when you see the maladaptive grasp with the use of the Pogo Pro 😦 – Ouch it hurts my eyes!):

AluPen by Just Mobile – This pen caught my eye as a real possibility for young learners. It is a chunky, light weight pen. It reminds me of the pencils and pencil colors that were easier to handle than standard round pencils for preschoolers. It received good reviews and might work well for small kids hands without having to put a gripper or some kind of grasp on it. ($20.00)

SGP Kuel H10 Stylus Pen – Smaller tipped stylus pen compared to most of the others such as the Pogo. The pen has a strap that plugs into the audio jack making it convenient to locate. Compatible with iPad/iPod. ($12.99) .

Kensington Virtuoso Touch Stylus & Pen – iPad compatible stylus and pen combined. ($24.99)

ShapeDad’s Stylus Sock Pro – Small socks made of conductive material that slides over a pen holder.  ($5.00) (You can also find videos or instructions for how to sew these yourself)

There are many other styluses available.  If you are interested in an in-depth review of styluses check out these two articles:

Here is a Mouthstick stylus!

Macgyvering a Stylus

Since I could not find an affordable stylus with a fine I decided to start exploring what else might work.  Using styluses for touch window in the past compelled me to trial old styluses and different materials and tips  (sponges, erasers, felt tips).  As a OT who loves to adapt and problem solve, I was driven to try to create my own.  Sponges worked so I started on taking pens apart to create a sponge tip. It worked but I still could not create a fine tip like I wanted.  After creating my sponge tipped stylus pen,  I found numerous YouTube videos already out there describing how to make your own stylus. Many different methods of making your own stylus using sponge material, foil, wire, glue or tape and a pen/marker/antenna/chopstick or marker are available on the Internet. If you are interested in making your own stylus or don’t have the funds to make one check these videos out or search for “how to make your own stylus” on the Internet:

http://www.techaccess-ri.org/?page_id=485 – Using marker, foam, wire and tape

http://ilearntechnology.com/?p=4221 – Using pen, foam and wire – geared to kids

http://www.techiesnoop.com/how-to-make-your-own-stylus-pen/ – Using an antenna, glue and foam

http://www.techieask.com/2010/05/make-your-own-touch-screen-stylus-from-any-pen/  – Using pen, wire and foam

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcE46qvW4Xk&feature=related – Using chopsticks and foil

Styluses for OT

The subject of styluses came up recently as a fellow OT was discussing how she wanted a stylus to help transition one of her kindergarten students from using her finger on her iPad to using a writing utensil/stylus as another method of developing pencil grasp and control with a writing tool. A great therapeutic and motivating intervention for a young student and emergent writer when you have a mobile tool like the iPad. Many questions came to mind:

  • Which stylus would I purchasing soley for student use? (If I could afford that)
  • How would I adapt an existing Kensington Stylus for small hand use?
  • What kind of griper might I try to use (The Grip?)?
  • If I made one what one would I choose to make?

What would be your choice, make or buy? And which one?


About Carol Leynse Harpold, MS, OTR/L, SCLV, ATP, CATIS

OTR/L with more than 35 years experience in pediatrics, school based therapy and adult rehabilitation. Masters of Science in Adaptive Education/Assistive Technology with 20 years experience in AT in education of elementary, middle school, secondary, post secondary students and work environments for adult clients. A RESNA Assistive Technology Practitioner with ACVREP CATIS credentials, AOTA Specialty Certification in Low Vision, USC Davis Executive Certificate in Home Modifications, servicing adults and students with disabilities in employment, education, and home environments. A 2020 graduate of the University of Alabama Birmingham Low Vision Certification Program.
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3 Responses to iPad Stylus – Purchase or Macgyver it?

  1. I too tried a stylus and found it to be useless. It was not accurate and difficult to use. Granted I wanted it for drawing on the iPad but it was just easier to use my fingertip still. I have not explored any of these higher priced stylus’ for fear that they won’t work that great either. I have to explore some of the make your own ideas – I love to do that if possible. Regarding the transition piece, I think a stylus that best mimics what the child will be writing with would be best. For example, if a child is using a golf sized pencil to write with try to make your own stylus that is shorter. I found the stylus to work okay for letter tracing apps if you held it more upright than a regular writing utensil (which as I type I realize that could promote carry over of an inefficient grasp on the writing tool).

    Playing devil’s advocate though, we have children practice many forms of kinesthetic writing and assume it will carry over so why can’t you just transition directly to writing if a stylus is not working?

    • Check out the styluses at Stylus-R-Us called the terminator. I would really like to try this out – it looks like a fine tip that could be used with a pen. Rather expensive though!


    • Check out the Terminator on the Stylus-R-Us website, might that be a solution for an appropriate grasp pattern on a stylus? It might need a pencil grasp on it for a larger grasping surface. The video showed a marker like stylus which I did not see in their gallery of styluses, that might be appropriate??

      I appreciate your devils advocacy and great OT insight on the finer points of applying the use of these devices. Thank you for taking the time to comment! We all benefit from your ideas!

      Thank you!!

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