Janet W. Lerner

Janet Weiss Lerner, author of one of the first and most enduring texts about Learning Disabilities, died 25 May 2015. She was 88 years old. She began her career studying under Sam Kirk, Alfred Strauss, and Laura Lehtinen; having learned from the pioneers in the history of special education, Professor Lerner went on to exert giant influence, herself, especially in the area of Learning Disabilities.

Professor Lerner completed a Bachelors of Arts at Milwaukee State Teachers College (now the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) when Professor Kirk chaired the special education department there; later she took a Masters of Education from National Louis University and a Doctor of Philosophy from New York University. She taught at multiple grade levels in both general and special education in New York and Chicago, often focusing on helping children with reading problems.

Professor Lerner was a faculty member at many institutions of higher education and was working with the Professional Assistance Center for Education (PACE) for Young Adults with Multiple Learning Disabilities at National Louis University at the time of her death. She spent most of her career at Northeastern Illinois University, where she served as professor and chaired the Department of Special Education beginning in the early 1970s.

Professor Lerner first published Learning Disabilities: Theories, Diagnosis, and Teaching Strategies, the major hit of her career, in 1971; she continued to revise it under that title through an eighth edition that appeared in 2003, after which it appeared under a new title, Learning Disabilities and Related Mild Disabilities: Teaching Strategies and New Directions and was co-authored with Beverley H. Johns. She also wrote other books including Teaching Reading to Slow And Disabled Learners (with Samuel A. Kirk and Sister Joanne Marie Kliebhan), and Special Education for the Early Childhood Years (with Carol Mardell-Czudnowski and Dorothea Goldenberg)—just to mention two of the many.

In addition to having been active in local and state organizations, Professor Lerner contributed to national organizations, particularly the Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDAA). She served terms as editor and co-editor of Learning Disabilities: A Multidisciplinary Journal and was, at the time of her passing, serving at least her third term on LDAA’s Professional Advisory Board. She was the recipient of the Council for Exceptional Children’s (CEC) J. E. Wallace Wallin Special Education Lifetime Achievement Award (2004), CEC Pioneers Division Romaine P. Mackie Award (2009), and Pi Lambda Theta Award for Outstanding Book of the Year (1973).

Janet Weiss Lerner was born 27 June 1926 in Milwaukee (WI, US) to Alex and Nellie (Rubin) Weiss. Her parents and one brother, John, passed away before she did; another brother, Bob of Milwaukee, survives her. Professor Lerner is also survived by her husband, Eugene M. Lerner, Ph.D., of Bloomfield Hills, Il (US), whom she married in 1951 and their three children: Susan L. Cohn, M.D., and her husband James; Laura Lerner; and Dean Lerner and his wife Susan. There are four grandchildren and one great grandchild.

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