JP Ruggieri , a previous client at AIS, is featured in this weeks episode of the Nashville-based, Neighbor’s Podcast - “The Stuttering Paradox.” JP, now a musician in Nashville, was interviewed by Cariad Harmon, a fellow Nashville musician, friend, and co-host of the show.In the podcast, and in the remarks below, JP and Cariad discuss how he previously saw stuttering as his greatest flaw. After trying to "fix" it his entire childhood, he was confronted with the "subway challenge” in an AIS intensive therapy program. By facing his fear, JP learned to authentically accept himself just the way he was... and turns out that also dramatically helped his stutter. Listen to the full podcast at the link below, and read further for Cariad and JP's experience with the podcast recording process.
Purpose of the podcast
Cariad: JP and I are old friends and we’ve been playing music together for the best part of a decade. Over the years we’ve talked a lot about his experience as a performer who stutters, and how the American Institute for Stuttering helped him to accept his disfluency as a young man. As a radio producer, I’m interested in stories about fundamental change, and the different ways we search and strive for connection. I was always struck by how universal many parts of JPs journey are, although I am not a stutterer, I am certainly no stranger to the self criticism and anxiety that JP experienced so acutely around his speech. I was fascinated by how deeply his experience at the Stuttering Institute changed him, and I think it’s a story that a lot of people will be able to relate to, whether they stutter or not. JP:When Cariad asked me to do the interview I felt excited and grateful because it brought up an opportunity to raise awareness for stuttering. So much of stuttering is misunderstood, so I love getting to share my story with as many people as possible. The more stories that get told, the more understanding will take place for the next generation of stutterers.
What we learned
Cariad:I know JP as a confident, funny and very gregarious person, and though I knew he struggled with stuttering as a kid, I didn’t know all of the details of his experience, or how debilitating his stutter had been. I learned a lot from our interview and it’s a testament to how far he’s come that so much of his story was a surprise to me.JP:The interview process actually felt quite cathartic. It was nice to open up and just lay it all out in a safe environment. It’s a story that I haven’t told in full in many, many years, so I think in a way it was like lifting some weight off of my shoulders. When we finally got down to watching the video, I hadn’t seen that in well over ten years. It brought some tears to my eyes as I instantly was brought back to that feeling from that time, and how it used to feel to talk. I think a big part of me forgot how disfluent that I actually was.
Cariad: JP’s journey with stuttering is a life long endeavor, and I wasn’t able to fit everything I wanted to into this short piece. I wish I had time to include more about the evolution of stuttering treatment and the way that AIS continues to run immersion programs today. JP also has some fascinating stories about his experience as a musician and performer who stutters and I would encourage any listeners to check out JP’s music at www.jpruggieri.com to find out more.As a part of the Neighbors Podcast, we performed JP’s story at a live event. We narrated directly to the audience, using sound bites from our interview and tape we had of The Subway Challenge. Afterwards, we invited JP to sit with us on stage, play some music and answer a round of questions from the audience. It was wonderful to see so many people engage with the subject, and it opened up some wonderful conversations.JP:The live event was so cool! The story aside, just the idea of doing a live podcast was something that I had never heard of, and I went into it not knowing what to expect. The way the story weaved in and out of pre recorded audio to live talking and back was so cool. Being up on the stage and having the story be about something that lives so close to my heart and soul was just the icing on the cake. I loved seeing the response from the audience, and the Q&A section felt like a really great opportunity to spread awareness about stuttering. How would 12 year old JP feel if he was able to watch that? I would hope proud!
Cariad:I have learned a tremendous amount about stuttering through researching this piece. I hope that our audience will relate to JP’s story, and that perhaps a person who is struggling with fluency issues of their own will find his journey as inspiring as I have.JP:It’s so flattering to hear the story finished, and I feel really proud to be such a big part of it. It’s really nice to feel like the difficult experiences that you’ve gone through might have a chance of helping someone else; I think it makes them feel validated in some way. I’m feeling really inspired and I really hope that kids (both who stutter and don’t stutter) get to hear it.
“Neighbor’s - A Show About What Connects us” is produced in association with Nashville Public Radio. Listen to artful stories about the people we pass every day—showing that we have more in common than we might think. From barbers to improv comedians, from shoe shiners to street musicians, get to know your neighbors.Listen and subscribe at neighborspodcast.com or on your favorite podcast app. For bonus content and an ad-free experience become a member of “The Neighborhood” at patreon.com/neighbors--The American Institute for Stuttering is a leading non-profit organization whose primary mission is to provide universally affordable, state-of-the-art speech therapy to people of all ages who stutter, guidance to their families, and much-needed clinical training to speech professionals wishing to gain expertise in stuttering. Offices are located in New York, NY and Atlanta, GA, and services are also available Online. Our mission extends to advancing public and scholarly understanding of this often misunderstood disorder.
Carl Herder, M.A., CCC-SLP, BCS-F
Atlanta Clinic Director, Board-Certified Specialist in Fluency Disorders
Carl is our Clinic Director for the Arthur M. Blank Center for Stuttering Therapy in Atlanta, GA. He joined AIS in New York in 2006 and worked closely with our founder, Catherine Montgomery for nearly five years. In 2016, he moved to Atlanta to open our first satellite office.