A "Late Talker" is a toddler (between 18-30 months) who is typically developing in terms of play skills, motor skills, thinking skills, and social skills, but has a limited spoken vocabulary for his or her age.
When speaking about late talkers, comments such as you should "wait and see", "boys tend to talk late" or "I only started talking at 3" are a common few that you might hear.
There seems to be a perception that late talking children will catch up and develop appropriate language skills in later years. Although a fraction of late talkers do go on to develop age appropriate language skills, there is also a possibility of early language difficulties persisting through to adolescence, impacting academic outcomes. Research continues to evidence weaker language and related abilities in children who were identified as late talkers in early childhood, even if they had caught-up and achieved within average range on language and reading tasks. Risk factors such as being a quiet infant, limited imitation of words, history of ear infections and family history of speech and language delay etc, if identified, also place the toddler at an increased risk for persistent difficulties in language acquisition.
Early language intervention can help remediate problems and potentially prevent future difficulties in late talking children. Intervention boosts a child's long-term outcomes, and can also have an impact on other domains that rely on prior language achievements for their development.
When it comes to late talkers, the wait-and-see approach may cause more harm than good. Speech and language intervention is worth it to resolve language issues sooner rather than later. It is recommended that you consult a speech-language therapist if you have concerns with your child being a late talker.