How It All Started…


The idea behind Ryda Boards came about when my dad Cliff Marshall had a stroke in September 2005 aged 82. It affected his left hand side and left him with fairly severe weakness in his arm and leg. After receiving some excellent care at the Norwich Community Hospital which aided his progress, I was keen that this progress should continue when he came home. I looked for activity devices that could help him gain strength and dexterity, but the choice seemed very limited so I thought I would make him a simple exerciser. I can’t say definitively where the idea came from but, even though it is not electronic, some people say it reminds them of the ‘buzzer’ game for children where you take a wire hoop along a bendy course and you get ‘buzzed’ if you touch the metal guide.

I made a device out of wood and my dad found it helpful to improve upper body movement, and when carers or doctors came in to see my dad they commented on how they had never seen anything like it and it looked a good idea. It was encouraging to get the positive comments, and rewarding that it helped my dad improve, but I didn’t do anything about developing the idea at the time. It was left to fester along with all the other crazy ideas I had nurtured over the years but never pursued.

Then in September 2015 I saw a documentary on TV about some people who had suffered brain injury and something that caught my eye was when they showed one of them being given an assessment test used to gauge ability. I thought I must do something about the device I had made. Sadly my dad had died in March 2014 aged 90 but I thought what a nice legacy it would be if his struggle had some kind of meaning and a purpose. I took the device to show the therapists at the Norwich Community Hospital stroke unit and they seemed impressed and said they knew of nothing else that was like it. This gave me encouragement and the incentive to take it further.

Over the next few months I made better prototypes, showed it to more people, professionals as well as those with a stroke, and the feedback made me realise that the device could help many more people besides those who were recovering from a stroke. It could help anyone who had ABI (acquired brain injury) whether through stroke or accident, anyone who had muscle weakness in arms or hands, anyone with coordination problems or anyone with learning difficulties and even dementia. It was comforting to learn that such a simple concept could have the potential to bring benefit to so many people.

Once the initial designs were finalised I looked for manufacturers to make the various parts of the system, and after all the effort and time spent on the project, it was very rewarding to see the first batch of Ryda Boards manufactured by a local company in June 2016. The website was developed including a shop page and when the positive feedback led to sales it was very satisfying to see other people benefiting from what was quite a challenge for my dad to live through.

Let’s hope you’re somewhere around dad to make sense of it all, you deserve it.