DanaKae Bonahoom, M.A.
Co-Director SmartStart Developmental Learning Center
Founder Heartworks Intervention Services®
DIR® Faculty for ICDL. When you first meet DanaKae and she shares what she has done in her life, she tells you that in her first life as a nurse she solidified her passion for babies and the elderly, and during this time she was also a foster parent for babies with prenatal drug exposure. The foundations of these early experiences shaped her understanding of children and also were the driving forces in her quest for finding a way with children regardless of the circumstances of their life and the biological challenges they were born with. This was the beginning of foundation being laid for Heartworks®, for the discovery of who each child was created to be, the beginning of a Developmental Model that was tailored to Uniquely Designed Children. DanaKae is at her core a developmentalist and an investigator, her work is driven by questions, hypothesis and solidly grounded in research and experience. Heartworks® is at its core a model designed around a child, and at its “heart” a model that believes each child is unique and it is our job to discover who that child is. She is a pioneer and is redefining the work of child rearing and childhood education. Her work in understanding that “all behavior has a communication®”, and her redefining the work of Dr. Stanley Greenspan’s concept of following the child’s lead into “following the child’s need®” is nothing short of ground breaking.
She has taken her God-given talents and worked diligently in the lives of literally thousands of children and families. DanaKae is an internationally recognized leader in Childhood Development with a wealth of experience in developmental assessment and intervention with families of children with special needs. She holds a Master of Arts degree and teaching credential in Special Education. She has also completed extensive training in the DIR®/Floortime model and is a certificated member of Dr. Stanley Greenspan’s faculty. She specializes in the use of the Heartworks® Developmental Model with children requiring intervention in the areas of affective regulation, sensory integration, communication, and socialization. DanaKae is Co-Director of SmartStart Developmental Learning Center in Santa Monica, California. She is the clinical supervisor of all staff and programming, curriculum development, staff training, parent training, individual staff mentoring, parent and family support. DanaKae is the founder of Heartworks Intervention Services®. Heartworks® identifies the gaps in a child’s development, identifies the child’s unique sensory profile and deficits and captures the child’s heart and drive by harnessing their internal drivers, enabling them to willingly climb the developmental ladder, regardless of age. DanaKae consults with families and educational institutions for both developmental assessments and interventions. She is gifted in weaving together dynamic home to school collaboration and works with both families and educational settings. DanaKae personally trains families and professionals to implement the Heartworks® Model across home, school, and community settings. In addition, DanaKae conducts groundbreaking seminars and trainings across a broad range of cutting-edge topics. A sampling of topics include: Body-Brain Disconnect, Boundaries, Strong-Willed Children, Sensory, Behavior, Communication, Preparing for Puberty, Supporting your Teen for Greatness, The Power of Being the Mom /Dad You were Created to Be, Soaring in Reading and Math, The Power of EQ driving IQ, Moral Intelligence, The Power of Teaching Drama and Affective Engagement to Support Life Skills.
DanaKae is available for Individual consultations with families, Educational Institutions, Program-Wide Consultations, as well as Whole-Program (Re)Creation to implement the Heartworks® Model.
DanaKae has one child, Mia, who is herself amazing with children, and works at SmartStart sharing her unique gifts with the children. When Mia was 13, she announced that in her first life she will be a special education teacher, a missionary, and a drama instructor focusing on moral character development. Mia is coming to age 22 and God has manifested this amazing vision for her and has added an incredible gift of choreography! Mia is a most awesome example of Heartworks® in action.
Mia Bonahoom has been a part of Heartworks Intervention Services® since its beginning… well- before its beginning as she has been around children since she was a child (she is DanaKae’s daughter!). She loves all children and is inspired by her Mother to make a difference in the world by bringing light and life into children and their family’s lives. Whilst being with Heartworks®, Mia was a part of starting WakeHeart Learning©, in which she is also a teacher. The school uses a homeschool learning approach, as well as utilizing the Heartworks In Motion® curriculum. She has a way of teaching in an engaging, fun, unique, and loving way where all children feel welcome. Inclusion is something Mia believes in, as children thrive in countless ways when the community they are in enables them to feel like they belong. Apart from her love of teaching in the classroom, Mia also has a passion for directing and choreographing musical shows multiple times a year. The shows are arranged in a way for all children to participate in, as they learn valuable life lessons, and challenge themselves to dance to uplifting musical numbers which help them in their journey of life.
Mia also has had the opportunity to follow alongside the Heartworks® team to bring the curriculum overseas to Singapore, China, and Malaysia. Within the three destinations- she has supported the team by helping with teacher trainings, teaching children, arranging shows for the children to participate in, supporting families, working with various schools/associations, and holding family camps. Working overseas is another passion of Mia’s that she hopes to continue.
Being a teacher is a passion in her life, and that is why she is pursuing her master’s degree in Special Education. Mia is excited for the future of Heartworks Intervention Services® and the various roles she plays on the team.
Lara Sims, M.A.
Lara has worked with children with special abilities for over eighteen years. While studying art education for her undergraduate degree in New York City, she looked forward each week to when the children with special abilities walked into the art room! Shortly after getting her undergraduate degree she moved to Los Angeles where she started working as a developmental interventionist under the supervision of DanaKae Bonahoom! DanaKae helped her learn the importance of relationship-based teaching and how to see beyond the surface of behaviors to the heart of a child in order to support them to be who they were created to be! During the time she was a developmental interventionist, she had the privilege of becoming trained in Facilitated Communication and grew a passion for helping children find their voice through the use of technology! Lara started working full time under the mentorship of DanaKae at SmartStart Developmental Learning Center in 2003. She returned to school to get her Masters Degree and Credential in Early Childhood Special Education and has loved serving children alongside the Heartworks® team both at SmartStart Development Learning Center and in Singapore! As a part of the Heartworks® team, she takes part in creating children’s books, developing curriculum, designing training resources for teachers, mentoring educators, and has the opportunities to teach incredible children every day! God has given her the heart to believe in and encourage all children to walk in the freedom and confidence of who they have been created to be! Lara is currently getting another credential in the area of Moderate to Severe disabilities as she desires to be a lifelong learner and to serve children of all ages and abilities. She is extremely grateful for everything God has allowed her to do and to be a part of through Heartworks Intervention Services® and looks forward to continuing to serve children and their families alongside the team!
Stefanie Gregoryk, M.S., CCC SLP
Speech Language Pathologist
Stefanie Gregoryk has been a a licensed speech language pathologist for the past 14 years while integrating, supporting, and collaborating alongside DanaKae Bonahoom with the Heartworks in Motion® Curriculum to meet the communication needs of children with all abilities. She believes that all children come with the tenacious capacity for communicating and relating and loves pursuing ways to discover a child’s gifts and communicative intent. Through the Heartworks® model, Stefanie works in collaboration to create social groups for kids to come and be known, she designs communication tools through interactive role playing of books, she increases social reciprocity through relational puppetry, incorporates rhythmic dance to increase fluency and sequencing abilities, and develops a platform for children to communicate through multi-sensory and methodical art. Stefanie has traveled oversees to Singapore and Malaysia to plan and facilitate multi-generational aged camps and camps for children with various abilities, as well as designed and implemented individual speech and language programs for families. She mentors and trains staff, supports and encourages parents, and is passionate about setting up play schemes and materials that bring learning and language to life. Stefanie has seen children soar in their ability to communicate when they are engaged in the Heartworks® model, as they not only develop a way to communicate, but the children are dynamic with their ideas, thoughts, and power! She is thankful for being a part of the Heartworks® Team, for DanaKae’s continuous leadership and mentoring, and is excited for all the new things God wants to do!
Stephen B. Patton
Heartworks® Interventionist / Technology Strategist
Assistant Director SmartStart Developmental Learning Center
Stephen has served as a Heartworks® Interventionist under DanaKae’s mentorship for over a decade. His God-given specialties are in working with children with significant behavioral issues and training staff and parents to support children using the Heartworks Intervention® model. Stephen enjoys diving into difficult moments with children and helping them feel safe, understood and successful. When Stephen is not playing with children or mentoring parents or staff, he is serving Heartworks® behind the scene in the organization’s technology strategy.
Stephen is an avid amateur road cyclist with a heart for adventure. He is very blessed to share his passions for working with children and exploring God’s beautiful world with his dear family!