Updated DIY Adapted Stylus or Pointer

Shannon Intro Pic August
Photo property of the Molly Shannon.

Updated DIY Adapted Stylus or Pointer

by Molly Shannon, MS, OTR/L, ATP,

on the ATandOT Blog

 

 

 

Why would I need to make an adapted stylus or pointer?  Many children, students, or adults with physical limitations have difficulty holding a stylus and/or have difficulty isolating their index fingers for using technology, pointing to indicate their choices in communication, or in turning pages of a book.  These styli can be made very inexpensively as a DIY project.  As an Occupational Therapist, I have used these types of styli for operating standard computer keyboards, touch screens, augmentative communication devices, pointing for choice-making, or even to assist with turning pages in books.  There is an option to use either a standard pencil with an eraser tip or a specific stylus with tip (capacitive tip) depending upon your client’s need when making this stylus.

This project can also be a great community service project for students.  I have used this as a great hands-on DIY activity with college-level occupational therapy students.  You also could donate the extra styli that you make from the additional materials to local schools or rehabilitation centers.

The following instructions have been updated and edited from a variety of older sources to make the steps easier to understand and to encourage the use of these low-cost adaptations in cases where finances prevent purchase of expensive commercially available options.

Please use caution with any of the tools involved in making these styli.

Materials needed:  PVC pipe, cutting tool, sand paper, acetone, cotton balls, markers, fast-drying glue, drill, two-sided fastening strips, small pencil or inexpensive stylus, and pliers:

  1. Cutting PVC:  Buy a ¾” piece of PVC pipe from the hardware store.  (They are sold in about 10-foot pieces in the plumbing section.)  You can ask them to cut 4-inch-long pieces for you, otherwise proceed to a. and b. below.  Some resources recommend using 1″ diameter PVC, but this is too hard to cut with the PVC cutter.
  • Measure and mark 4-inch segments along the pipe’s length with a permanent marker.
  • You will then either cut the segments out with a handsaw or PVC pipe cutter tool. Be careful as the Shannon Cutter Toolsegments can tend to pop off once you squeeze the cutter tool very tightly. PVC/pipe cutter tools are available online or from Home Depot (from $15-30.00).

 

  1. You can perform the next steps in any order:
  • Acetone:   You will need to purchase acetone from a drug store or online since it is no longer an ingredient in gel fingernail polish used in the homes (cost from $4-10.00).  Use the acetone with a cotton ball on the piece of PVC pipe to remove markings from the manufacturer and your black marker marks.   Shannon Acetone   Be careful and wash hands afterwards as the acetone is powerful!

 

  • Sand the ends of the cut PVC pipe smooth with a medium-grade sand paper.  It is easier if you cut small pieces of sand paper.
  • Cut 11″ of double-sided fastening tape (Velcro brand is a more expensive option) to assist in holding the adapted stylus or pointer.  I ordered a roll of this product in a 5-yard roll from Amazon for $6.85 (product name:  Fastening Tape 0.75-inch Hook & Loop Fastening Tape 5 yard/roll – Black or other colors).

 

Photo property of Molly Shannon.
Photo property of Molly Shannon.

Shannon Velco 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • If making a pointer:   For typical situations, you can use a small pencil.  You can break a long pencil into a shorter pencil or use a Handwriting without Tears small pencil.  But if needed, for your client’s purposes, use a longer pencil in the stylus.   For example:  You may need to use a longer pencil for turning the pages of a book.  The eraser end will be pointing out towards the surface it is pointing at or is pressing on.
  • If making a stylus:  Use an inexpensive stylus (from the Dollar Store or get multi-packs from Amazon for example) for use with touch-sensitive technology.  You may have to use pliers to pull out the piece on the end of the stylus that is typically used to “clip-on” to a pocket or else the stylus cannot fit into the hole that you will drill.

Shannon Stylus

Shannon Tripod Grasp

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Making holes for the stylus or pencil:  You can use a ¼” drill bit for a pencil that will be used as a pointer (eraser tip pointed out to access keyboards or communication devices without touch screens) OR use a 3/8″ drill bit for use with a standard, inexpensive stylus for touch screens (capacitive screens).
  • Place a dot with the marker about 1-1 ½” from the end of the 4″ piece of PVC pipe.
  • You should score the drawn dot with a nail and hammer in order to more easily drill a hole into the PVC pipe.
  • Stabilize the PVC pipe piece with a table clamp.
  • Use the drill (cordless for the ¼” for a pencil or corded for the stylus) carefully.    Get a peer to stabilize the pipe if needed.
  • Again use the ¼” drill bit for a typical pencil and the 3/8″ drill bit for the stylus.
  • You can use the nail to clean out the hole or sand it a bit as well.
  1. You can leave a pencil in the hole without glue typically, but you would need to use a quick-drying glue, such as Gorilla Glue to stabilize the stylus.  If over time the stylus tip stops working (as they often do), you can pull/pry out the stylus and insert and glue in another.  Give the glue a few minutes to dry.

 

  1. Add the double sided fastening strap into the adapted stylus, join the ends, and it is ready for use with your client once the glue dries.

    Photo property of Molly Shannon.
    Photo property of Molly Shannon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now you are ready to begin using your DIY stylus to help your client with access to technology, turning pages of books, or indicating their choices by pointing for communication.

 

Molly Shannon, OTR/L, ATPMolly Shannon, OTR/L, AT , is an occupational Therapist with 33 years’ experience and  currently working in the public schools as a school-based Occupational Therapist in NC. She has specialized in the provision of Assistive Technology for 29 of those years and is RESNA certified as an Assistive Technology Professional. In addition, Molly is an Adjunct Professor of Occupational Therapy at Cabarrus College of Health Sciences in the Master’s Program teaching Therapeutic Adaptations/Assistive Technology in OT. She loves to present and train others in Assistive Technology and has been a national-level conference presenter since 1989.  She has worked with clients of all ages and with a wide range of disabilities in public/private school settings, non-profit educational/therapeutic agencies, outpatient/inpatient rehabilitation, and with the North Carolina Assistive Technology Program.  You can connect with Molly on Twitter sitePinterest Boards, or her ATandOT Facebook page.

Disclaimer: The information shared on the Go-To-For-OT Blog or affiliated Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest sites, and shared on social or public media or as links on other sites is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the authors and administrator of these posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.  

Photos that are the property of the author should not be used without a link back to this blog.  All photos that include a link to an originating site should be used with a link back to that site.  

Updated DIY Adapted Stylus or Pointer

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