Janet Weaver, 44, a former director of the National Child Research Center here, died of leukemia Tuesday in a Greenbrook, N.J., hospital.

Dr. Weaver was an expert in early childhood education. While head of the research center, from 1971 to 1976, she directed a staff that taught about 200 children a year in ages ranging from 2 1/2 to 7 years.

During her years at the center, cued speech, a system of communication for the deaf using hand signals based on phonetics, rather than letters or words, in conjunction with speech, was introduced in this country. Cued speech has long been used abroad but Dr. Weaver, with the help of Gallaudet College's R. Orin Cornett, who invented the method, first used it successfully in an American preschool setting.

Dr. Weaver also worked with Children's Hospital on a pioneer program the method in this country, first used to lessen the fear of young children of entering hospitals. The children were shown what went on in a hospital and were helped to adjust to new surroundings.

Under her leadership the center became an innovative leader in pre-school education and childhood development and attracted national recognition. She also helped organize an areawide teacher resource center.

Dr. Weaver was born in Lancaster, Pa., and earned a bachelor's degree at Allegheny College, a master's degree in clincial psychology from Pennsylvania State University, and a doctorate in child development from the University of Pittsburg.

Dr. Weaver traveled to England, the Soviet Union, and Scandinaia where she observed early childhood development and education. From 1959 to 1964 she was director of the laboratory nursery school at the University of Massachusetts.

She taught child development theory as an associate professor at the University of Delaware from 1966 to 1968.

She is survived by her father, William H. Weaver, of Amherst, Mass., and a brother, William M., of the home, in Rahway, N.J.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy may be in the form of contributions to leukemia research at Children's Hospital in Washington.