TRIBUTES have been paid to a specialist educational psychologist whose work made a difference to the lives of thousands of children in the region and around the globe.

Dr Madeleine Portwood, 63, of Bishop Auckland, County Durham, who died following a long illness, was a leading expert in the field of dyspraxia, which affects concentration, co-ordination and the way children perceive the world.

She wrote several books on the subject, including her landmark Developmental Dyspraxia: A Practical Manual for Parents and Professionals.

Dr Portwood was appointed senior educational psychologist at Durham County Council in 1988, when her remit was children with emotional and behaviour difficulties.

She subsequently changed to working with the Early Years, helping run the Durham Portage Service.

Her research into neurodevelopmental disorders is still recognised internationally and she has spoken at conferences around the world.

Dyspraxia Foundation chief executive Eleanor Howes said: “Dr Portwood served as a trustee of our foundation from 1998 to 2006, after that remaining an education advisor.

“She had a huge impact on the awareness of dyspraxia, helping parents understand the condition.

“She made a huge difference to our work, was a fantastic speaker, loved by parents especially and praised by professionals. Her talks were always injected with humour.”

Martyn Stenton, Durham County Council’s head of early help, inclusion and vulnerable children, said: “Dr Portwood worked as an educational psychologist in Durham for over 20 years, supporting many children and young people with special educational needs in schools across the county.

“She also held specialist senior psychologist roles in the areas of social and emotional needs, early years and dyspraxia, where she contributed to many very positive developments and initiatives which made a difference to educational experiences and outcomes for children and young people and their families.

“Our thoughts are with her family and friends.”

Dr Portwood, later ran a firm providing psychology services to schools in County Durham, Darlington and Sunderland and worked as clinical director for the Witherslack Group, where she was described as “quite simply one in a million”. A tribute posted online said: “Her commitment to helping and supporting children and young people with additional needs resulted in countless lives being changed for the better.

“Madeleine truly had a gift for connecting with people.”

Husband John Portwood said: “My wife carried out work with children in Qatar, the UAE and Bahrain to try and encourage the development of programmes there to help the children.

“Unfortunately, it was cut shot in July 2017 when she had a seizure, which was identified as a brain tumour.

“She was a consummate professional and would always react professionally to any situation.”

Dr Portwood also leaves her son Nicholas.

  • Her funeral service will be held in St Thomas of Canterbury Church, Wolsingham, on Tuesday, at 11am, followed by interment in the churchyard.