Tip: Stylus saves the day

I recently had a client using TouchChat. We thought initially that there was an issue with his iPod because it would not register his taps to the screen – it was slow to respond or non-responsive. We tried using a stylus and had immediate success. The icons were quite small, and it turned out that when he was trying to select an icon, the app was not responding because he was actually touching two icons at the same time. The stylus saved the day, and at $15.00 was an affordable solution.

Ever wonder how the touch screen on your mobile device works? Touching the screen with your finger will work, but using the same finger with a regular glove on it will not work. The rubber end of a pencil will not work. If you can get your cat to cooperate, using a cat’s paw will also work (make sure claws are retracted).  Using a stylus from an old Palm Pilot won’t work (and might scratch your screen).


The screens on mobile devices like the iPhone or iPad require a conductive material in order for it to respond to touch. For cold weather, there are specially made gloves that have silver conductive threads in the fingertips so that you can use your mobile device and keep your hands warm at the same time. There are also specially made styluses that have conductive material in their tips. These styluses can be very helpful for clients who have large fingers OR clients who have very small icons on their apps.

Styluses can range in price from $10 – $30 or more. In selecting a stylus it is important to consider how it will be used. Styluses can be used for 3 different purposes: 1) writing/drawing 2) navigating or tapping on the screen and 3) gaming. If the user is simply using it to assist in navigating on the screen (like my client) then a simple $10-$15 stylus will suffice. For writing or drawing, the design of the stylus has more of an impact. Consider how much harder it is to write with a short stubby pencil – the problem will be even greater using a short stylus. The size of the nib (drawing end of stylus) also makes a difference – the smaller the nib, the easier it is to see the screen underneath the nib – important if you are trying to make lines connect.  For playing games, the stylus needs to be very quick to respond, and shouldn’t drag on the screen.

If you or your client are interested in drawing art on your mobile device, another factor to consider is if the stylus is pressure sensitive.  Styluses that have pressure sensitivity will draw darker/broader lines when used with more pressure, and will make thinner/lighter lines when used with light pressure.  This simulates real life drawing.  Most styluses don’t do this.  There are 2 new styluses that I am aware of (Pogo Connect and Adonit Jot Touch) that are pressure sensitive.  These styluses only work with certain iPad apps and are more expensive ($79.99 and $99.99).  The nibs can wear out, but there are replacements nibs available to buy.

Pogo Connect 2

Adonit Touch 2
For non-Apple users, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 has its own pressure sensitive pen and apps.  You can also purchase tablets that are specifically made for drawing, such as tablets made by Wacom (meant to be used with a computer).

I have not yet used adapted styluses with my clients, but you can view different adapted styluses on Carol Leynes Harpold’s OT’s with Apps.  Three very useful posts on her site include “Need a sensitive stylus?“, “iPad Adaptive Styluses for Individuals with Mobility Impairment” and “Styluses for the Emerging Artists and Writers.”

There was also a very recent post on a mainstream website, iPhoneNess.com, that wrote about the “Griffin MouthStick Stylus“.  Griffin is a mainstream company that makes accessories for mobile devices.  As a mainstream company, it is possible that they could make more affordable accessories for those with rehab needs.  The Griffin MouthStick sells for $29.99 USD.

Griffin mouthstickstylus-7_1

For more information on specific styluses, conduct a google search for the most up to date information.

Do you use a stylus? What are your favorite styluses?


3 thoughts on “Tip: Stylus saves the day

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s