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To successfully use a mouse requires a combination of fine motor skills and an ability to recognise and understand the relationship between operating the mouse and what is happening on the screen.

Using a mouse correctly can take time to develop and requires the user to:

  • Hold, position and move the mouse (normally on a small portion of a desk).
  • Identify items on the screen.
  • Perform single or double clicks (and occasionally right-clicking) on a variety of items on the screen.
  • Hold the mouse in position while carrying out different actions.
  • Click, hold and drag items on the screen, e.g. images and icons.
  • Track the mouse cursor as you move your hand - good hand-eye coordination.
  • Relate to what is happening on the screen when the mouse moves and activates items.

Using a normal or standard mouse can therefore pose many problems for pupils with additional support needs. Not all mice are built the same!


Mouse alternatives

A comprehensive range of alternatives to a standard mouse are available,

for example:

  1. Small and single button mice
    - ideal for young children.
  2. Trackballs (also known as Rollerballs)
    - are ideal for people who can't use a normal size mouse.
  3. Joysticks
    - ideal for people have difficulties with motor skills.
  4. Trackpads
    - could help people with weak muscle/hand/finger control; requires gentle gliding/swiping movement and light taps).
  5. Finger/Thumb mouse
    - a mouse that fits snuggly around the fingers and thumb.
  6. Ergonomic mouse
    - available in different sizes for comfort and to relieve hand and wrist strain.


Features of trackballs and joysticks

Although the features of alternative mice differ between makes and models, useful options to consider (depending on needs of the user) include:

  • Click Drag - click drag holds the mouse pointer down (no need to click and hold) so you can click and drag items around the screen, i.e. drag and drop pictures.
  • Keyguards for joysticks and trackballs - left and right click buttons (and drag lock button) recessed below a guard to support fine motor skills.
  • Variable speed settings - customise the pointer speed, slow, medium etc.
  • Various handles for joysticks to aid control, e.g. T-bar, large foam shapes.
  • Colour coded buttons for joysticks and trackballs (left/right/drag) lock to prevent accidental clicks.
  • Direction lock - locks joystick into horizontal/vertical movement.
  • Natural hand rest.
  • Jack inputs for switches.

Adjusting the mouse

Despite the variety of mice available sometimes making a few simple adjustments to the way the mouse operates can make all the difference,

for example:

  • Slowing down the mouse speed to help coordination.
  • Slowing down the double click make clicking easier for people with motor difficulties.
  • Making the mouse left handed.
  • Making the mouse pointer larger to make it easier to see.
  • Display pointer trails to help track the mouse pointer.
  • Show the location of the pointer using the Ctrl Key to help find the cursor.
  • Enable MouseKeys - control the mouse using the keyboard's number pad.


To adjust the mouse settings in Windows, go to: Control Panel> Mouse.


To adjust the mouse settings on a Mac, go to: System Preferences> Accessibility,> Mouse and Trackpad.

For more information on adjusting the mouse settings see AbilityNet's 'Making your mouse easier to use.'


What if I can't click mouse buttons?

Even with the aid of an alternative mouse some people still have difficulties selecting and clicking items on the screen.

There are however different ways that a mouse click can be replicated:


Learning to use a mouse

Developing mouse skills, particularly for younger children with additional support needs, can take time, e.g. developing targeting skills, selecting and clicking actions.

There are a number of 'learning to use a mouse' games which can help to boost confidence and develop basic skills and understanding.

Games such as IT Mouse Skills offer colourful and engaging visual graphics, auditory prompts, and cause and effect activities to help young children develop confidence and understanding of mouse clicks and the relationship between the interactions of a mouse and screen activity.